The Riyadh Economic Forum opens this Tuesday in Saudi Arabia and is full of political decision makers and big bosses this year in contrast to 2018. The forum was largely boycotted after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Many big business leaders, finance executives and political leaders have confirmed their participation. Among the heads of state, there are two guests of honor: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro . On the US side, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead a high-level delegation including Jared Kushner, adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump.
" What is unfortunate is that the United States forgives everything to Saudi Arabia, " said Mr. Ardavan Amir-Aslani, a business lawyer and specialist in the Middle East . " Today, we know that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is involved in the assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and there is no sanction taken against this country, because business takes precedence " , is indignant Master Amir-Aslani .
►Also read: One year after the assassination of Khashoggi, Ben Salman "responsible", the crime unpunished
Prepare the post-oil era
The purpose of this year's forum is primarily to rehabilitate the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also aims to promote the economic program "Vision 2030" of the crown prince who aims to diversify the economy of the kingdom highly dependent on oil. To achieve this, the country needs foreign investors and experts. To convince them, Riyadh undertook several reforms last year aimed at opening up its economy and especially developing tourism. The development of the tourism sector is one of the priorities of "Vision 2030". The government hopes that tourism will represent 10% of the Saudi gross domestic product in ten years against 3% currently.
But despite the high attendance expected at this economic forum, the kingdom is struggling to convince foreign investors to invest in non-energy projects. The business world has not been able to digest the crackdown on hundreds of local business leaders in a massive anti-corruption campaign in 2017. There is also a lack of skills and skilled labor, tensions with some neighboring countries and the engagement of Saudi troops in the Yemeni conflict. Factors that slow down the industrialization of the country.
Spurned by Silicon Valley
If the world of finance has confirmed its participation in the forum, because petrodollars attract banks, US digital companies have not planned to attend. They do not need the Saudis because they find enough funding in the United States. This is problematic for Saudi Arabia, which really needs Silicon Valley's know-how to catch up in digital.