STRENGTH THROUGH DIVERSITY

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Already a top-10 country in terms of its business environment, SAGIA is working hard to improve the fundamentals of Saudi Arabia's native entrepreneurial class and political-economic institutions.

Ibrahim Al Omar
BIOGRAPHY
Ibrahim Al Omar was appointed Governor of SAGIA in April 2017. He brings over 15 years of private sector experience, with a strong professional background in the ICT and logistics services sector. He previously served as CEO of Bahri, Chief Alliance & Partnership Officer and Chief Product Development Officer at the Etihad-Etisalat Company (Mobily), and CEO of VIVA Bahrain. He started his career at STC, serving in progressive roles. He is an alumnus of Harvard’s Program for Leadership Development and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in electric engineering from the King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM).

What are your expectations for the Tayseer program, whose protection of property rights was designed to spur private sector investment?

The Executive Committee was formed to improve business performance in the private sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The intent was to increase the competencies of relevant government services and place the Kingdom among the top countries in the world in terms of the ease of doing business. The Tayseer committee has been established to pursue four main objectives: increase the efficiency of government services; position Saudi Arabia among the top-20 countries globally for doing business; implement regulations aimed at stimulating private sector growth; and increase private sector engagement with direct involvement in decision making. Moreover, more than 100 additional reforms are on the list for approval and implementation. SAGIA is closely monitoring the challenges and obstacles facing both local and foreign investors and businesspeople. These bodies will study and provide recommendations for solutions and submit them to the Saudi Council of Economic and Development Affairs for discussion and approval.

Your organization recently granted innovative licenses to 11 companies that enable young people to participate in the knowledge economy. How will you further drive the innovation economy and prepare young graduates for careers in the field?

Innovation is indispensable to doing business in today's world, and Vision 2030 clearly states that innovation and entrepreneurship are two key factors that will foster healthy economic development in the Kingdom. From food trucks to design firms and tech start-ups, young Saudi entrepreneurs are happily realizing the fruits of forming one's own business. Increased focus on e-commerce in the Kingdom also opens doors for young Saudi techies to create new products aimed at furthering digitization. To ease the transition from idea to marketplace, SAGIA now offers a special entrepreneur's license that makes setting up a company deemed “innovative" far easier than it used to be. A network of incubators and creative hubs also exists to nurture innovative entrepreneurs, and a loan program aimed at funding start-ups and SMEs is fully operational.

Focus industries for increasing added-value include mining, renewable energy, manufacturing, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and electronics. How do these attract investments?

Coordinating with Vision 2030, nine sectors for investments have been identified as primary investment targets, many of which have fundamental value underpinned by the size of the Saudi, regional, and global markets. In order to attract high-value investments, we have determined a list of the most promising countries for every sector we are targeting, so as to acquire the best expertise, advanced technologies, and innovations in each field.

Increasing FDI is a primary goal of Vision 2030. How will this affect the economy?

Our economic objectives include raising FDI to 5.7% of GDP, and private sector contribution from 40% to 65% of GDP. Saudi's Vision 2030 is coming to fruition and has succeeded in placing the Kingdom among the top-10 countries worldwide in terms of the business environment, as indicated by a recent World Bank report on the protection of minority investors. This came as part of the reforms adopted by the government in accordance with the plans and objectives of Vision 2030 to make the Kingdom a unique global model across all levels. The most important thing that distinguishes Vision 2030 is that it has given the local and foreign private sector players special importance as a key partner in accomplishing its objectives. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has allocated billions of dollars to the private sector for its development in accordance with Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020. The most important program is the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the engine for diversifying the Kingdom's economy. The Kingdom's privatization programs are a top priority and have already begun in the ministries of Industry and Mineral Resources, Labor and Social Development, Housing, Education, Municipal and Rural Affairs, Telecommunications and Information Technology, and Hajj and Umrah.