DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has been accelerating reforms and remained focused on the goals of Vision 2030 despite a global pandemic, Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih said on Saturday.
“We were not distracted from our strategy and our Vision 2030. In fact, we doubled down on it. We accelerated our reforms. We continued to diversify our economy, and commit our resources to make sure that Vision 2030 is not derailed by (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19,” he said.
His comments come as the Kingdom’s leadership of the G20 concludes over the weekend in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has shown resilience amid the global threats of COVID-19, Al-Falih said, acknowledging the distinctiveness of its presidency of the G20.
The minister said the annual summit was called on to do something which had never been done.
“The G20 and its presidency has been called on to save the world, and to mitigate the effects of the crises,” he added.
Al-Falih said the Kingdom stepped up to the challenge, guided by its belief in multilateralism — that “global problems require global solutions.”
Building local resilience
In order to perform its role, Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia had to build resilience locally.
“Resilience at home, on all fronts, was an essential element for us to do what we have to internationally and multilaterally,” he explained.
Saudi Arabia has taken “dramatic steps” to deal with the pandemic, Al-Falih said, adding there was no room for any distraction from its “transformation” as a country.
He pointed out the Kingdom’s “effective and competent governance” from the early days of the pandemic, and its “balanced approach” in making important decisions.
Saudi Arabia has also made sure to buffer the pandemic’s blow to its economy.
“We’ve built resilience into our financial systems, into our financial reserves, and into our monetary policy,” the investment minister said, adding foreign investments had not been significantly affected by the global crisis.
“I’m glad to say that foreign direct investment (FDI), in the first half, has increased by 12 percent compared to last year. We are seeing a year-on-year increase over the last two years. Our FDI performance is improving,” he added.
This increase, he said, could be associated to ongoing policy reforms in the Kingdom, including changes related to intellectual property, as well as tourism, mining, and other local industries.
He discussed the Kingdom’s push to diversify its economy, which has been one of its main lines of defense against the impact of the pandemic.
The minister also hailed the rest of the G20 members “for rising to the challenge,” alluding to the pandemic he described as “a human crisis as people were pushed back into poverty, fear, psychological and social tensions, overlaid by an unprecedented economic slowdown.”
He said $21 billion had been earmarked to support healthcare initiatives against the virus, including for the development of vaccines, and the improvement of diagnostic and treatment tools.
There have also been mechanisms to help poor countries deal with the pandemic, including debt relief programs that have already helped dozens of nations.
On top of healthcare initiatives, Al-Falih said there was also a huge emphasis on protecting the global economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic.
“Thanks to the collective efforts of the G20 members, we see that the global economy is contracting less than anticipated earlier in the year,” the minister said.
Global trade has also been adjusted due to the pandemic, with countries relaxing trade barriers to allow the easy movement of critical goods among nations.
Al-Falih said the G20 would not be complacent as the crisis continues, and will continue to work to navigate through the unique challenges of the pandemic.