In face of the global financial slowdown, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) robust economy has managed to put the country among the top 10 most competitive nations, and has seized the world’s attention with its potential for future strategic investment.
In 2000, the Saudi government created the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), responsible for fostering investment opportunities in key sectors of the economy, including energy, transportation and knowledge-based industries.
The kingdom is undergoing aggressive transformation to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and was named by the World Bank, in 2007 and 2008, the most business-friendly country in the Middle East, and included in the top 20 worldwide.
KSA offers natural competitive advantages with unmatchable oil supplies that allow for low energy costs and a privileged geographic location that borders with three continents. Adding benefits, SAGIA has created pro-business regulations and strong investments are being made on infrastructure to convert the country into a logistical hub between East and West.
Saudi Arabia ranks fourth in the world for “fiscal freedom” and is considered the seventh most rewarding tax system in the world. It is also the largest free market in the MENA region and first for ease of registering property. So it is no wonder that investors are increasingly attracted to this market.
In view of long-term planning, KSA is investing over $60 billion in the development of four integrated Economic Cities that will represent the ultimate innovation in public-private partnerships. They have been strategically distributed to drive innovation throughout the kingdom. Each metropolis will host up to five million residents, create over a million jobs and most importantly contribute $150 billion to Saudi’s GDP.
Each of these integrated cities will offer an unprecedented standard of living with cutting-edge architecture, world-class services and ubiquitous connectivity with negative environmental impact and maximum energy efficiency.
The Economic Cities will achieve economic diversification (away from oil), create jobs, enhance competitiveness in Saudi Arabia and raise GDP per capita. Investors will find a business-friendly environment, defined by SAGIA, offering competitive regulatory, fiscal and financial incentives.
SAGIA is also stimulating the development of knowledge-based industries, in the creation of a knowledge economy, focusing on information and communication technologies, education, health services and life sciences.
To further its growth and development plans, Saudi Arabia will be hosting the sixth annual Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) in Riyadh from 21-24 January, 2012. In this edition, global business leaders, political leaders and intellectuals will focus on the theme of entrepreneurship and discuss the impacts of organizational and national competitiveness on local, regional and global economic and social development.
The GCF, now in its sixth year, is another SAGIA initiative intended to provide value-added business services and solutions to potential investors interested in operating in Saudi Arabia. The international event, the only of its kind, will also include specialized workshops focused on different forms of entrepreneurship.