Low oil prices represent an important opportunity for Saudi Arabia, with the worldwide price volatility driving the pace of the nation's economic diversification.
The Kingdom has been successfully reducing its economic reliance on oil over the past decade, with those efforts now being accelerated in response to the challenging global economic climate. Strategies to do so will be the main focus at the forthcoming Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF). to be staged in Riyadh on 24 - 26 January.
"Volatile oil prices present an economic challenge worldwide, not just in Saudi Arabia. However, they also represent an opportunity for countries to drive innovation and sustainable growth by directing investment to other key competitive sectors," HE Abdullatif Al-Othman, Governor of the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
We have to be proactive, not reactive. Non-oil sectors are already playing a substantial role in the country's development, contributing almost SR164 billion in revenues in 2015, an increase of almost 30% from 2014. It is imperative that we continue this growth," he said.
GCF 2016's theme is Competitive Sectors, discussing strategies of developing a sustainable, mixed economy not overly reliant on oil. With key inputs from business and political leaders, academics and analysts from the private and public sectors in Saudi Arabia and the wider world, GCF 2016 will be outlining visions for specific non-oil sectors that directly impact economic growth, focusing on developments in health care and life sciences, transport and logistics, finance, manufacturing, education, ICT and the services industries.
Driving investment to such sectors will be a central part of discussions throughout the GCF, especially since the Forum will coincide with the publication of Saudi Arabia's roadmap to reducing its reliance on oil, the National Transformation Plan. In the recent budget – the biggest review of Saudi economic policy for a decade – the government reiterated its commitment to continue focusing on development projects that drive economic diversification. The budget allocated significant funding for education (SR192 billion) and health and social development (SR105 billion), demonstrating Saudi Arabia's ongoing goal to develop a skilled workforce able to work in key non-oil sectors.
Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling
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