Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) data reveals that 2020 witnessed the highest inflow of foreign investments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) surpassing SR 2 trillion (USD 0.53 trillion) and rising 9 per cent YOY despite global economic turmoil caused by covid 19 pandemics. A USD 46.21 billion as new investment from overseas was generated by the KSA that promoted new foreign company formation in Saudi Arabia.
The whooping FDI was termed as significant by Fadhel Al- Buainain, a member of Shoura Council and positioned Saudi Arabia as one of the most attractive destinations for foreign investors because of diversified government investment programs and supportive legislative processes of the country’s investment ecosystem.
Al-Buainain also a director of Saudi Financial Association highlighted that SR173.3 billion investment at a time of global travel restrictions reinforced the fact that KSA effectively handled the challenges caused by the pandemic and successfully addressed the issue of the country’s reserve.
“Certainly, foreign capital is looking for opportunities in emerging markets . . . especially the Saudi market, which provides investment opportunities, safety and rewarding returns, in addition to important partnerships in major global pioneering projects,” Al-Buainain noted.
Partnerships were led by the sovereign wealth fund and the Public Investment Fund and opportunities were presented as a part of the Vision 2030 program, he added.
The increased FDI inflow was attributed to “the significant improvement in the investment environment in the Kingdom” and the up gradation of investment laws, remarked Talat Zaki Hafiz, an economist and financial analyst by profession. He also highlighted big government projects e.g. The Line and renewable energy projects as additional attractions for global investors.
Hafiz said, “The announcement of the SR27 trillions ($7 trillion) that will be spent by the government over the coming 10 years has attracted the attention of foreign investors.”
He also added, “I believe the decision of the government to diversify its economy away from oil has created huge investment opportunities to foreign and local investors.”
KSA issued 466 investment licenses to foreign investors for doing business in Saudi Arabia in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 60 per cent increase compared to the previous year and December adding 189 investment licenses. The overall FDI rose by more than 20 per cent during 2020 and increased 80 per cent to touch USD 1.9 billion with the economy growing to pre-pandemic levels. KSA also made remarkable improvement in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business ‘ index, advancing 30 points in the global ranking.
Issam Abousleiman, World Bank regional director for GCC said, “Saudi Arabia’s impressive reforms in doing business this year show its commitment to fulfilling the main pillar of its National Vision 2030 — a thriving economy.”
“Easing the business climate for local entrepreneurs to thrive as well as foreign investors to work in the Kingdom shows a forward path to creating more jobs for Saudi youth and women, and creating sustainable, inclusive growth,” he highlighted.
New businesses and startups witnessed the maximum surge with the cost of starting a new business dipping to an all-time low of 5.4 per cent of per capita income compared to 16.7 per cent in other parts of the MENA region.
“One of the most important factors that attracted foreign investors is the issuance of new legislation and amendments in some existing legislation,” noted Ayed Alblaihshi, a municipal investment specialist.
Access to the online construction permit, easy availability of electricity, enhanced access to credit, easy export and import laws including more transparent insolvency rules are some of the reforms that aided the country in achieving this feat, the World Bank reported.