(Davos) “We want to reduce our dependence on oil”, says the Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia in an interview with AFP in Davos, where the kingdom sent a delegation this year to plead its cause.
Eight Saudi officials made the trip to Switzerland on the occasion of the annual meeting of political and business leaders, one of the largest national delegations. They set up their base camp very close to the center where the exchanges take place.
Among them, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Investment, Finance, Communication, as well as the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
“We want to diversify our economy, it’s important, it’s essential,” Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim told AFP when he met near the Davos Forum.
Riyadh is seeking to further open its economy to investments in sectors other than oil, the regime’s traditional cash cow, which in 2022 enabled it to achieve its first budget surplus in nine years thanks to the surge in prices after the Russian invasion. in Ukraine.
“It is not a question of advertising or putting oneself forward, people are very interested in Saudi growth”, assures the minister, who highlights the 8.5% increase in GDP recorded in last year in the midst of a global economic depression.
The country wants to build on the momentum of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s December visit, during which the leader and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman endorsed hydrogen deals and a diversification program with China’s initiative of the “new silk roads”.
“We are also interested in other sectors, such as mining and industry,” said Mr. Al-Ibrahim.
The country also wants to make its mark in areas “that start from scratch” in the kingdom, he said, citing tourism, culture, entertainment and sports.
Saudi Arabia has just recruited Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo from the Al-Nassr club and could be a candidate for the organization of the 2030 World Cup. It has also organized several meetings with the press in Davos, aimed at promoting of its candidacy for the Universal Exhibition of 2030.
The kingdom also said on Tuesday that it had launched an initiative with the organizers of the Davos Forum to accelerate innovation in Saudi Arabia, using the metaverse.
During this meeting, the issue of energy transition, climate commitment and the place of women was also discussed, the country thus seeking to draw attention to another facet of the kingdom whose image is very degraded by the question. human rights for years, and even more since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, attributed by American intelligence to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which the Saudi authorities deny.
“We have opened up much more than before and this has allowed people to observe”, wants to believe Mr. Al Ibrahim, citing “the values, the progress, and the fact that we are tackling many problems regionally and internationally”.
Regarding energy, however, the Minister warns: economic diversification “does not mean that we will not continue to be one of the largest energy producers. We will continue to lead in traditional hydrocarbons”.