Ambassador Al Saleh’s Remarks on Saudi National Day – Canberra, 2016

Sep 24, 2016   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

Saudi Ambassador  to Australia  and New Zealand Mr  Nabil Al Saleh

Remarks at National Day 2016 Reception”

Speech, check against delivery, Canberra, Australia , 22 September, 2016

 

Excellencies, distinguished guests.  It is my great pleasure to welcome you here tonight, as we celebrate the passing of 86 years since the unification of Saudi Arabia.

We have succeeded in this period beyond expectations.  Today, Saudi Arabia has become a leading player in regional and international affairs.  We have improved our standard of living. We have created opportunities for our people, and have built cities and a country of which we are proud of.

As you know, the region, and the whole world is changing fast, entering an era full of challenges. And this, in its own right, contributes to the introduction of new and unique opportunities, in building a more resilient and comprehensive economy.

 

For well over a decade, the Kingdom has enjoyed uninterrupted real economic growth, with an average growth rate of 5 % over the past 5 years.  Whilst we are in a strong position, we understand the necessity to adapt to a new paradigm, to face whatever challenges and strains that may arise.

 

It is in this context that we have embarked on implementing Saudi Arabia’s long-term economic strategy. Vision 2030, announced by our government earlier this year, aims to transform our country; diversify our sources of income, into an economy that is vibrant and resilient.

Where we are changing the mind-set of the country from an oil producer, to an innovative, competitive, efficient society, as we unleash the potential of our youth. Where we are making ministries and government as a whole more accountable, setting the highest levels of transparency and governance across all sectors. Where we look at ways to increase foreign investment as well as domestic investment in Saudi Arabia, and empower the role of women.

 

However, ‘Vision 2030’ is much more than that. It is also about looking at sectors that have been underutilised. Whether it is in mining or manufacturing; whether it is in defence, services, or education; whether it is in research and technology. After all, ‘Vision 2030’ is not just a slogan – its baselines and fundamentals are non-negotiable. And these elements are what is central to the vision; which are:

-              Our position as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds.

-              Becoming a global and leading investment powerhouse.

-              And, making Saudi Arabia a global epicentre of trade, connecting three continents; Asia, Europe and Africa.

That is why we have launched the ’2020 National Transformation Plan’.  A blueprint, which outlines the pathway to 2030; how we plan and monitor our work. It is a roadmap, which will ensure that ministries , institutions , and government entities work on implementing the Vision. The results of which will be published so that it can be publically monitored. It is because of this, that we are quite optimistic:

Of becoming within the world’s 15th largest economy by 2030, up from our current position of 19th in the world. Transforming our Public Investment Fund into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.  Increasing its assets from $214 billion Australian dollars to over $2.5 trillion Australian dollars.  As well as increasing the private sector’s contribution from 40% to 65% of GDP, and increasing Small and medium-sized enterprises’ contribution to GDP from 20% to 35%. And, of lowering the rate of unemployment from 11.6% to 7%.

Moreover, of moving ahead in global rankings. For instance, from our current position, of 82nd in the World Bank Index of Ease of Doing Business, to rank 20th by 2020. As well as from 25th to rank 20th in the Global Competitiveness Index within the coming four years.

But Ladies and Gentlemen,

‘Vision 2030’ signifies a lot of possibilities.  I would encourage you to enter into constructive partnerships with us. True that ‘Vision 2030′ is entirely Saudi.  That we will localise manufacturing, and harness the knowledge acquired by our nationals studying on government scholarships abroad.   Which, at present, number in excess of 200 thousand.

 

But the private sector has an integral role to play in fulfilling our vision.  And so, the opportunities for you are there. Particularly as we need the skills, the expertise and technical know-how.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia has, is, and will continue to be an appealing investment destination. And these activities and opportunities will not cease. Whether it is in Health, Defence, Education, Mining, Food Security, Infrastructure, services, or ICT just to name a few. Sectors that Saudi Arabia and Australia can work on closely together. But let me just briefly illustrate some of the possibilities:

Although we are the world’s 3rd biggest military spender, only 2% of this spending is within the Kingdom. We intend to localise over 50 % of military equipment spending by 2030. Doing so, will require strategic partnerships with the private sector.

Moreover, we see ourselves not as an oil producing country, but an energy producer – in solar, in wind, in clean energy. We intend to generate 9.5 giga-watts of renewable energy to meet our local energy consumption, which is set to increase three fold by 2030.  In doing so, we are entering into partnerships with institutions across the world, in research and technical collaborations.

Furthermore, we have established the Commission for Recreation and Culture, and have sought international interests in offering cultural activities and entertainment inside the Kingdom.

These changes will come in tandem with a population that is set to double over the coming decades.  As well as an increase in disposable income, and a growth in the number of annual travellers.

These will evidently lead to a strong rise in the demand for food and food security.  Religious travel alone is set to expand from 8 million to 15 million visitors by 2020, and to 30 million visitors per annum by 2030.

There will continue to be ample opportunities in the education and research field. Particularly as we seek to train over half a million public sector employees by 2020.  We will also encourage further collaboration and partnerships between our educational institutions and foreign universities. Particularly as we aspire to have five Saudi universities in the top 200 world universities by 2030.

Last but not least, the ICT sector will play an integral role, as it will drive this Vision, empowering our country, and economy.  It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia is the largest ICT market in the Middle East region.

I could go on and on.

But my point is that all government departments are working in sync with the private sector to translate the vision into a reality.   We are pulling the pieces together from all over Government and relevant bodies.   The foundations are being laid. Vision 2030, and the mechanisms worked through as stated in the 2020 National Transformation Plan, has provided the means and the necessary assurances for investors to act with confidence.

It is in this regard that I should refer to the visit by the Australian Minister of Trade and Investment to Saudi Arabia in the near future.  I would encourage Australian businesses to accompany the Minister in this trip, or to seek the assistance provided by the Saudi Australia Busines Council. As it is a valuable vehicle to discover the transformation occurring on the ground, discuss the possibilities with the relevant officials, as well as prospective busines partners.

We know that the current trade balance between both our nations does not reflect its true potential.  Thus, seizing the opportunities currently presented, will turn the potential for exponential growth into a reality.  So, let me conclude by emphasising to you that: Saudi Arabia has chosen a clear path.  A path of creating an economy that is not dependent on oil as a source

of revenue. Making it a global and leading investment powerhouse, as well as a global epicentre for trade.  All of which will be based on good governance, transparency, and accountability.

In doing so, we look forward to working with all members of the business community, and international community, in our path to accomplish Vision 2030.

Thank you very much for your attendance.

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