Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Ninth Euromoney Saudi Arabia Conference began on Tuesday in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh, hosting more than 1,200 government and finance figures from across the globe.
The two-day conference focuses this year on innovation and competition in the Saudi economy, now the world’s 20th most competitive, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.
This comes as Saudi Arabia—the world’s biggest oil producer and largest Arab economy—is looking to diversify its economy and increase domestic competition, with a record 855 billion Saudi riyals (228 billion US dollars) in budget spending announced by the government for 2014.
The Kingdom will use the earmarked funds to spur development in the private sector and carry out a number of large infrastructure projects, including the building of roads, trade and industrial centers, hospitals, and airports, in a bid to curtail the Kingdom’s dependence on oil and boost employment.
Economic diversification features heavily in this year’s event, with a number of discussions and debates on the topic scheduled.
Saudi Arabia’s GDP grew by an estimated 3.8 percent in 2013, compared with 5.8 percent in 2012, according to Reuters; projected growth in 2014 is 4 percent.
This year’s event was opened by Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf. Speaking at the conference this year is JPMorgan Chase Chairman and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, as well as senior executives from HSBC and BNP Paribas banks, the Saudi stock exchange, homegrown chemicals manufacturer SABIC, and state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco.