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Visionary leadership key to Eastern Province’s economic transition

Article - June 27, 2016

H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud prioritizes partnerships, cooperation and job creation to usher in new era for the beating heart of the Saudi economy


Home to 25% of the world’s oil reserves, the Eastern Province is the economic engine room of Saudi Arabia, accounting for more than half of the Kingdom’s oil production and about 7% of total global output.
With a population of 4.1 million, including 1.9 million foreigners, the vast territory represents 27.6% of the whole area of the Kingdom (450,000 km2), making it the largest region in Saudi Arabia and a prominent gateway to and from the country.

Its more than 700km of shoreline on the Arabian Gulf, in addition to its strategic location on the frontiers of Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran, means that Eastern Province and its bustling ports are key trading posts for the entire Middle East.

The proof of the province’s huge contribution to the Saudi Arabian economy is in the numbers. Accounting for 60% of the country’s GDP, over the past two years alone the Eastern Province has brought in approximately $150 billion in industrial investments. Such an influx of capital has been largely down to the presence of Saudi Aramco in addition to other international companies.

Operators of the province’s Ghawar oil field – which with estimated reserves of 70 billion barrels is the largest field anywhere on the planet – Aramco also owns and develops all other energy resources based in the Kingdom and is said to be the world’s most valuable oil and gas firm, with an estimated market value of $10 trillion.

Saudi Aramco has become a reliable supplier for consuming countries in times of crises and has been able to meet growing demand by reaching a record high production of 10.19 million barrels per day. Aramco’s operations in Eastern Province will continue to be the focal point of the Kingdom’s strategy to maintain its dominance of global energy, despite the growth of alternatives and competition from other rival oil producers.

The Eastern Province, with its flourishing petrochemical, light and heavy industries, is considered as the incubator of the government’s efforts towards economic diversification – a reality not seen in most other oil-dependent countries.
“The Eastern Province has the door open for investors. We have always been at the heart of the Kingdom’s economy and are determined to play our part in taking the economy forward towards a more sustainable model of diversification,” says ruling Prince of Eastern Province, H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud.

“The Eastern Province has the door open for investors. We have always been at the heart of the Kingdom’s economy and are determined to play our part in taking the economy forward towards a more sustainable model of diversification”

Appointed in June 2013, the Prince is considered one of a new generation of Saudi leaders who have taken it upon themselves to transform the economy and guide the country through a new era of development.

Along with the setting up of policies to ensure that security, safeness and stability thrive in the province, H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud’s aim is not only to maintain the competitiveness of the commercial and investment sectors, but also oversee the economic diversification that will allow the Kingdom to reduce its dependence on oil revenues and generate thousands of high-quality jobs.  

In order to achieve his vision of a diversified economy, H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud has concentrated on opening up the province to foreign investment, promoting cooperation between foreign investors and local partners, and introducing programs to stimulate entrepreneurialism and small and medium-sized enterprises.

“We have always been at the heart of the Kingdom’s economy and are determined to play our part in taking the local economy forward, now and in the future, towards creating an economy with a more sustainable model of diversification, international investment, entrepreneurialism and high-quality job creation,” he says.

H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud’s commitment to this is demonstrated by his presence and continuous supervision on all projects in the province, both in the planning, development and operation stages, as well as following up with all parties concerned to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Indeed, the size of industrial investments attracted to the province since the Prince took office also tells its own story.

Notably, the Saudi government’s strategy for the Eastern Province under the leadership of H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud has concentrated on the development of alternative industries by establishing a chain of industrial cities. The biggest and most important of these is located in Jubai Industrial City, which has become a global hub for the petrochemicals industry and is home to the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) – a diversified manufacturing company, active in chemicals and intermediates, industrial polymers, fertilizers, metals and other products.

Today around a quarter of all the Kingdom’s factories – more than 1,500 – are situated in Eastern Province. Aside from Jubail, there are other thriving industrial cities, including Dammam 1st Industrial City, which contains around 120 factories and 14,000 employees, and the Dammam 2nd Industrial city located on the Dhahran-Ahsa Highway, which contains 340 factories and 75,000 employees.   Building materials, paper, electrical materials, furniture and medical supplies are just some of the products manufactured there.

In 2011 General Electric established its Energy Manufacturing Technology Center at the 2nd Industrial City, one of the company’s largest world-wide operations, while other major investors in the industrial sector include Boeing, Halliburton, Dow Chemical, Alcoa and many more international companies.

Heavy industry and manufacturing are not considered the only vehicles of economic diversification in the province, however.  Agriculture plays a significant part with the cultivation of various types of dates, fruits and vegetables forming a large segment of Eastern Province’s economy. Every year, thousands of tons of crops are harvested from the giant oases of Al-Ahsa due to its fertile lands suitable for all types of cultivation. The Eastern Province also has a large and diverse fishing industry.

In other sectors, the government has invested massively into infrastructure, including air, road, rail transport and seaports, as well as commercial, residential and tourism real estate developments, universities, schools and hospitals.

Business and investment opportunities in these sectors across the Province are also being driven by the government’s proactive approach to spread wealth across the country, especially for its citizens, generating new demand among Saudi’s increasingly affluent population, made up of residents and visitors from all over the world. This is particularly luring for international companies who are looking for a share of a booming market.

Tourism, both business and leisure, and real estate in particular are seen as areas with great potential, and doors are opening up to a slew of development opportunities. With the recent slump in oil prices, investment has been channeled into the Saudi property market – something which has also been powered by sky-high demand. Such demand has led to practically all the major international real estate developers to set up or expand operations in the Eastern Province, including large companies such as JLL Colliers, Sotheby’s and Century 21.

Demand is particularly high in Eastern Province, which boasts the longest history of Westerners living and working in Saudi Arabia and where the sprawling satellite towns of Dammam and Al-Khobar are located. Al Khobar is considered especially prosperous and modernized due to its adjacent borders with other GCC countries – most notably the King Fahad Causeway which connects the Eastern Province to the Kingdom of Bahrain with a 25km long bridge.  The Causeway plays a key role in commercial and tourism transactions, witnessing a record 233,954 travelers during one week alone in 2015.

Going forward, the administration of H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud, with its excellent vision and huge experience, will continue to develop the area – especially after forming the High Commission for Development of Eastern Province, which is set to play a very important role in attracting further investment.  Indeed, under the supervision of H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif Al-Saud, Eastern Province certainly seems to be primed for continued foreign investment and is ready to lead the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s transition into a more diversified, and more sustainable economy.

The Prince himself extends an invitation to the international business community regarding the opportunities that await. “I invite international companies and investors to visit the Eastern Province,” he says. “The Kingdom in general and Eastern Province especially, is wide open for all companies, investors and businessmen. They are welcome in their second home away from home.”