REALIZING THE KINGDOM’S GOALS

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

By focusing on strengthening policy research and analysis across various policy areas, the Minister of Economy & Planning seeks to better support the rapidly evolving environment.

Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri became the Minister of Economy and Planning in November 2017. He was previously appointed as Vice Minister of Economy and Planning and General Secretary of the Finance Committee in the Royal Court. Al-Tuwaijri has held several leadership positions in local and international banks as well as public and private institutions. He holds a bachelor of science in aviation science from King Faisal Air College. He earned his MBA with honors from King Saud University.

How can Saudi Arabia capitalize on its young population regarding economic transformation?

As His Royal Highness the Crown Prince mentioned, although we are a resource-rich country, our real wealth is our youth. Being a young nation is a strong enabler for economic growth, but to harness this advantage and reap the benefits of the country's demographic characteristics we must focus on education, job creation and access to employment opportunities and the provision of quality healthcare services.
Regarding education, we are focused on equipping our youth with high-quality education aligned with market needs which will enable the population to be active contributors to economic growth. As for employment opportunities, there are also a number of improvements in this area. Labor market reforms focus on addressing segmentation, improving labor mobility, addressing the wage gap, tackling obstacles to SME development and reducing barriers to female labor force participation. Efforts around female labor force participation include mobility, suitable working environments and equitable investments in women compared to male peers. Regarding SMEs, fostering an entrepreneurial culture will increase employment opportunities and nurture innovation. In essence, a skilled labor force with access to productive jobs will facilitate sustainable economic growth.

What role should the government play in further diversifying away from the oil industry?

Economic diversification is a top policy priority. The government is developing a framework that identifies areas where our comparative advantages can be best realized. One example is the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, which aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a regional industrial powerhouse and logistics hub. This strategy is complemented by efforts to strengthen the business environment and increase its attractiveness to local and international entrepreneurs.
Achieving these goals entails the implementation of coherent, consistent and transparent policies and regulations that foster economic growth and diversification including removing obstacles to productivity and competitiveness. We aim to improve the structure, depth, and interconnectedness of the economy to better integrate Saudi Arabia into the global economy and attract the right investments.
The government continues to build and invest in infrastructure as quality infrastructure facilitates private sector activity and enables growth. Also, the government placed human capital development atop the policy agenda. Evidence shows that human capital investments during one's early years of life lay a strong foundation for adult prosperity and the growth, diversification and competitiveness of economies. Investing in people through nutrition, healthcare, quality education, jobs and skills will help build the human capital needed to realize our goals of economic diversification and sustainability.

What are your priorities for the coming years?

While the ministry continues to play a significant role in the realization of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, we seek to develop greater topical and analytical expertise to better support the Vision and its Realization Programs. Strengthening policy research and analysis will better position us to support the evolving and complex policy environment. We aim to add greater empiricism and evidence to the policy formulation process in areas the ministry is focused on.
A crucial success factor is engagement with key stakeholders within and beyond government including the private sector and NGOs. We are working alongside our partners to innovate policy design and implementation.

How do you envision the ministry's planning and coordination roles going forward?

Economic planning and policy coordination have been given new meaning in Saudi Arabia. The role of the ministry has grown and evolved beyond its original mandate. Long-term planning is essential, but the policy landscape requires that planning be coupled with support that is dynamic, analytical and grounded in methods that yield an evidence-based approach to policy making. Our envisioned role entails the use of data driven methods and approaches to highlight interdependencies across policy areas to ensure an evidence-based approach to policy design and implementation; the facilitation of a rich and nuanced dialogue alongside key stakeholders to better design and implement policies; better coordinated policy efforts across ministries to prevent duplication of efforts and the use of impact assessment tools to evaluate policy and program efficiency and effectiveness to better inform resource allocation.