I was mesmerised. The change is happening as we speak.
Our flights were full, the hotels were packed with foreigners; Mainly consultants French, English and Italians. Conversations buzzing, laptops constantly at hand, enjoying the faster pace and fully aware that they are in on the secrets of Riyadh’s ambitions; They are the select few (for now), experiencing it first-hand. Executive placements.
The specific story for us is that the country is open for business, looking to expand and bring in European and American real estate talent in part to help mobilise the development of NEOM. The larger story is that this is part of an overall Saudi pitch to encourage private equity firms and other investment platforms to support and invest in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia’s ambitious modernisation plans. I am a believer.
Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the Crown Prince has had a tricky year. But the 34-year-old heir to the throne will soon be the only game in town and he seems intent on propelling this proud, aloof, conservative, desert kingdom into the frontline of world players. The contradictions are still there: elegance and uber-opulence; humility and arrogance – but increasingly tradition is making way for ambition and the embrace of the future. The reality of Riyadh with all its potential.
Riyadh is intent on being part of the world conversation. – Executive Placements.
Thus the launch in 2017 of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) an annual investment forum hosted by PIF to discuss trends in the world economy and investment environment. Initially shunned, now everyone attends. Riyadh is also intent on using the template forged by Bahrain and Dubai to become the pre-eminent regional financial hub – diversification, good governance, transparency and attractive to Western investment.
The ambition: to improve on and eclipse these cities. Riyadh has a unique set of credentials: third-largest city in the Arab world (7mn population), one of the wealthiest cities in the world and with a highly educated population. All of this will be put to good use. According to the figures as shown by the Ministry of Finance, the Kingdom has been able to diversify its economy and not rely on oil revenues. In essence, other sections of the economy have been utilized very well and a lot of revenue has been made.