As the Middle East’s biggest economy, accounting for nearly half of GCC output, Saudi Arabia is the most important market in the region for international business. Politically stable and in possession of the world’s most abundant oil reserves, the kingdom is central to the long-term strategy of anybody serious about doing business in the region.
That is why, despite the slowdown of the past three years and the challenges associated with operating in the kingdom, so many serious players remain committed to doing business in Saudi Arabia. It is also why, on 24 October, nearly 3,500 investors, business leaders and financiers attended the Future Investment Initiative, the ‘Davos in the Desert’, hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
At the event, delegates were wowed by the prince’s vision to transform the kingdom and the scale of projects such as the $500bn Neom city project.
But less than one month later, some of the biggest names in government and business in Saudi Arabia were arrested as part of an anti-corruption drive launched by the crown prince. On the same day, Riyadh was linked with the surprise resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Saudi citizen.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is set to lead Saudi Arabia for many years to come. He has a vision for the kingdom domestically and abroad. And he has shown that he will take strong and decisive action to deliver his vision.
But the suddenness of these recent actions is unsettling for investors.
It is important now for Riyadh to show that its actions are part of a clear plan and that Saudi Arabia is indeed an open and stable place in which to do business.