Editor: Why should Westerners be interested in investing in Saudi Arabia?
SAGIA: A high-oil-revenue environment has spurred a boom in both oil and non-oil development projects. The outlook for Saudi Arabia's energy sector is bright and secure. Unlike previous investment cycles, the current round of investment projects is marked by heavy private sector participation with US $79 billion in private-sector energy projects under development.
With its unique strategic location straddling the markets of east and west, Saudi Arabia is recognizing its potential as a leading global transport and logistics hub. SAGIA, in collaboration with domestic and international partners, is now making substantial investments in a sophisticated transportation network that will leverage Saudi Arabia's competitive advantages.
The region's largest market is embarking on a historic information and communications technology (ICT) investment program that will make Saudi Arabia a regional technology landmark.With over 27 million consumers and a number of global enterprises, Saudi Arabia is the largest ICT market in the Middle East.
Editor: Please describe the public-private partnerships.
SAGIA: There are significant investment incentives in privatization and WTO accession promoting private-sector opportunities. For example, with private-sector participation expected to rise amid escalating demand trends, Saudi Arabia's expanding healthcare system offers attractive investment opportunities.Saudi Arabia is the Middle East's largest market of healthcare consumers. Although it's a large market, it's far from mature. With an aging yet affluent population, there's an unprecedented opportunity for investors to benefit from new developments in healthcare.
Also, with a young, expanding population and a blossoming knowledge-based industry, Saudi Arabia's education sector is facing a new, exciting era. There is clearly substantial room for the private sector to participate more fully at the primary and secondary levels of Saudi Arabia's education system. In the past, foreign organizations have not been permitted to directly educate Saudi students. Now, for the first time, the Economic Cities are allowing students to benefit from outside skills and knowledge.
Editor: Describe the Kingdom's Four Economic Cities. Why were they established?
SAGIA: Saudi Arabia is investing tens of billions of dollars in launching four Economic Cities. They are public-private partnerships that will create tomorrow's most attractive investment platforms for foreign companies. These developments combine world-class infrastructure, cutting-edge design principles, and special incentives and streamlined processes to create foreign investment-led hubs in knowledge-based industries and other crucial sectors. The four new Economic Cities at a cost of more than $60 billion are fully planned and under construction where it is expected up to five million residents will live, work and play. Each will be an exciting metropolis, designed to maximize investment potential and deliver huge advantage to businesses located there. This visionary development project will promote economic diversification, create over a million new job opportunities with homes for four to five million residents, and contribute $150 billion to Saudi's GDP. Each will have unparalleled standards of living. Built on specially selected "green field" sites and strategically located around the nation, each city is being planned as the ultimate in 21st-century urban living and working. Residents and workers will enjoy a virtually unique combination of high-quality housing, modern amenities, excellent sports and recreational facilities and world-class specialist healthcare. International schools will offer global curricula for workers' children from around the world, while luxurious malls will offer shops and restaurants. Each city will feature modern building design, world-class services and infrastructure and ubiquitous connectivity. These built-in advantages combined with attractive investment incentives and a supportive regulatory environment will create significant competitive advantages for business. SAGIA is also working with leading environmental institutions to ensure that the Economic Cities are developed with minimum negative environmental impact and maximum energy efficiency and sustainability.
Editor: What are some of Saudi Arabia's strategic targets?
SAGIA: One of the keys today to building an infrastructure for business is to have a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure. For example, ICT-enabled services providers (such as data centers) will be able to leverage Saudi Arabia's unique access to low-cost power and state-of-the-art communications infrastructure to efficiently service global customers. Software and other content providers enjoy a secure environment for commercialization, thanks to significant progress on intellectual property rights (IPR) laws by the Ministry of Commerce and the CITC.
Saudi Arabia is a nation that is looking to, and preparing for, a different kind of future, a future that revolves around investment. New communications infrastructures, new transport routes, state-of-the-art industrial complexes, dynamic training opportunities and a commitment to greater business efficiencies - all of these things and many more will be delivered through Saudi's focused investment, helping to build a nation of sustainable prosperity. To capitalize on its geographic advantages, Saudi Arabia has set itself three strategic targets: (1) to become the global capital of energy. Up and downstream petrochemicals, minerals, power and water are all vital to the Saudi and global economy; (2) to act as a transport and logistical hub between east and west. Saudi Arabia's roads, railways and air links create a potential consumer base of more than 250 million, all within three hours' reach; and (3) to transform its knowledge-based industries, i.e., healthcare, life science, education and information technology (IT). These industries are all crucial drivers of long-term, sustainable development.