Saudi Arabia hosts ‘Davos in Desert’ amid pandemic
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia will host a two-day Davos-style investment forum starting Wednesday, with dozens of global policy makers and business tycoons lined up to speak at the partly virtual event amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 150 speakers will participate in the fourth edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII), organizers said, seeking to showcase the insular kingdom as a dynamic investment destination.
Around 100 speakers will participate virtually from FII hubs in New York, Paris, Beijing and Mumbai and 50 will attend the conference in-person in Riyadh, they added.
The participants include Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon, Stephen Schwarzman, head of private equity firm Blackstone, American asset management company Blackrock’s chief executive Larry Fink and former Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, organizers said.
The summit, earlier slated to be held last October, comes amid the pandemic that has battered the global economy.
“There has never been a more important time for leaders, investors and policy makers to come together to work towards reenergizing the global economy,” Yasir al-Rumayyan, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, said in a statement.
The summit, dubbed “Davos in the desert”, was launched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 to woo foreign investors and promote his Vision 2030 diversification plan to wean the economy off its dependence on petro-dollars.
But the following year, the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi agents in Istanbul prompted a wave of business and political leaders to pull out of the glitzy conference at the last minute.
The murder at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul triggered one of the top crude exporter’s worst ever diplomatic and public relations crises.
The conference saw a reboot in 2019 as global outrage over the murder subsided.
The forum is billed as an economic coming-out party for the petro-state, seeking to diversify away from oil — and authorities are eager to project the kingdom’s economic ambitions.
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