WEF 2023: Saudi Arabia committed to multilateral cooperation in a fragmented world
First Voice

Editor's note: CGTN's Straight Talk, as the video column for CGTN First Voice, brings in dialogues with experts from across the world to offer a nuanced take on contemporary issues and events of global relevance.

The Swiss Alpine resort town of Davos has become synonymous with the annual World Economic Forum (WEF). Since the late 1980s, the town has been hosting the high-profile summit of global political and business leaders at the start of every year in January, barring the past two years that were disrupted – well, you guessed it – by the COVID-19 pandemic. The forum was cancelled in 2021 and held for the first time in summer last year.

The forum is back on its original winter schedule after a gap of two years and is being held from January 16 to 20 this year. The theme of WEF 2023 is "Cooperation in a Fragmented World" – quite apt amid the deep global divides and multiple turmoils that the world faces today, ranging from geopolitical mistrust, global economic slowdown to a looming energy crisis.

Saudi Arabia is sending a high-level delegation to Davos this year. Ahead of the start of WEF, Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, who is part of the Saudi delegation, spoke with CGTN Straight Talk to share his views on the path forward in this challenging time.

Edited excerpts:

What will be Saudi Arabia's key agenda in Davos this year as nations chart their paths to economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic?

Saudi Arabia is the true global growth story in recent history, especially this year. Saudi Arabia is committed to continue connecting, cooperating and collaborating with international community.

We will be in Davos to make sure that our finger is on the pulse, we have a clear and updated view of the challenges that the world faces, but we'll also try to contribute from our learnings and our transformation journey to our counterparts and partners and friends, and also for us to benefit and learn from that engagement in a manner that helps us improve our ability to achieve Vision 2030.

As the largest economy in the Middle East, with ties to both China and the United States, Saudi Arabia is well-positioned to use its strategic relationships and hydrocarbon resources to stabilize volatile energy markets and advance economic recovery. How does the kingdom trade a fine balance and ensure "inclusive energy security for all?"

As part of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and OPEC-plus, the kingdom's policy has always been to focus on long term-market stability. In terms of the energy markets, we have clearly demonstrated our view of having a pragmatic and just energy transition – one that balances between energy security, climate change, but also economic development and economic opportunities for all.

So, we will continue this steadfastly and will continue playing our role, bridging any global divides and helping the international and global community to address its challenges while looking after our own national interest in parallel.

Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning, Saudi Arabia. /Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning
Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning, Saudi Arabia. /Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning

Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning, Saudi Arabia. /Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning

As the kingdom embarks on a new reform agenda, what are its priorities – national, regional and global – and how is it responding to today's turbulent geopolitical context underlined by the China-U.S. competition?

In general, we believe that the global economy is witnessing lots of changes and lots of variables. We are coming out of COVID-19, and we have learned a lot which tells us that we need to always make sure that we read and forecast these challenges well and address them and pre-empt them as much as possible. So, our ambition is to implement and deliver on our Vision 2030 ambitions and beyond.

We want to diversify our economy. We want to make sure that our young population grows into a very productive economy and society and we capture the economic dividend. We're blessed not to be an aging society, but we have to make sure that we continue to invest in our youth and human capital development outcomes and continue to grow our institutional capabilities. These are some of the challenges and opportunities that we look at.

Overall, in the kingdom you will witness a unique investment opportunity as a whole for all partners – current ones and future ones – from the private sector and beyond, to join in on this growth story in a manner that not only serves their interests in their growth potential and their unlocking of their potential but also in a manner that helps Saudi Arabia's growth which will have a trickle-down effect on the region and the world.

Saudi Arabia has promoted its Vision 2030 as a cornerstone for global collaborations, quite similar to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that is focused at global connectivity and cooperation. How do these visions play out at the WEF and how important is the idea of collaboration for Saudi Arabia?

The kingdom has always been a strong global citizen and an active player in most, if not all, multilateral platforms, and conventions such as the World Economic Forum. So, it's important for us to continue engaging, continuing understanding the challenges that we and our partners and the rest of the world face and continue finding these solutions.

Vision 2030 is our plan to unlock our potential but also to address some of our long-term economic challenges that we mentioned. So, collaborating and cooperating and connecting, continuing the dialogue is extremely important to not only support our partners but also to open the door for us to be in a better position to support our own needs as well.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on the international community to uphold "true multilateralism" on more than one occasion including at the previous Davos summits. He reiterated the same thoughts during his landmark visit to Saudi Arabia last month. What is the kingdom's outlook on multilateralism and its significance in creating a much fairer and more inclusive world order?

So, we believe in the role of multilateral platforms to help address some of these global challenges. Of course, there is room to improve the effectiveness and activate further impact in these multilateral platforms which is something that the kingdom continues to discuss in the various fora

On top of that, there is also opportunity for all countries to grow their institutional capabilities which helps them grow their participation and collaboration at these multilateral fora but also grow their own quality of their own impact at home. We believe the value of institutional capabilities and growing them has been a bit dismissed or ignored, and we need to help each other to make sure that our institutions are chiselled and ready for the future proof but also that they address the fundamentals of policy-making, including collaborating inclusively, with the private sector, and the NGO community.

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