Executive Summary

In 2022, the Saudi Arabian government (SAG) continued its ambitious socio-economic reforms, collectively known as Vision 2030. Spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Vision 2030 provides a roadmap for the development of new economic sectors and a transition to a digital, knowledge-based economy. The reforms aim to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil and create more private sector jobs for a young and growing population.


To accomplish these ambitious Vision 2030 reforms, the SAG is seeking foreign investment in burgeoning sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, entertainment, health and science, technology, and renewable energy. Saudi Arabia aims to become a major transport and logistics hub linking Asia, Europe, and Africa. Infrastructure projects related to this goal include various “economic cities” and special economic zones, which will serve as hubs for petrochemicals, mining, logistics, manufacturing, and digital industries. The SAG plans to double the size of Riyadh city and welcomes investment in its multi-billion-dollar giga-projects around the country (including NEOM, Qiddiya, the Red Sea Project, and Diriyah Gate), which are the jumping-off points for its nascent tourism industry. The Kingdom is also developing tourism infrastructure at natural sites, such as AlUla, and the SAG continues to grow its successful Saudi Seasons initiative, which hosts tourism and cultural events throughout the year and across the country.


The Saudi entertainment and sports sector, aided by a relaxation of social restrictions, is also primed for foreign investment. The country hopes to build hundreds of movie theaters and the SAG aims to sign agreements for production studios in Saudi Arabia for end-to-end film production. The SAG seeks to host world class events, such as Expo 2030, and has already hosted the European Golf Tour, Diriyah ePrix, Dakar Rally, and Saudi Formula One Grand Prix. In addition, recent film festivals and concerts have demonstrated strong demand for art and cultural events.


Saudi Arabia’s healthcare privatization program provides lucrative opportunities for foreign investment. The SAG also aims to partner with tech companies to become a leader in next-generation technologies and digital infrastructure. Lastly, Saudi Arabia is eager for foreign investment in green projects related to renewable energy, hydrogen, waste management, and carbon capture to reach net-zero emissions by 2060. It is particularly interested in green capacity-building and technology-sharing initiatives.


The pressure to generate non-oil revenue and provide increased employment opportunities for Saudi citizens has prompted the SAG to implement measures that may weaken the country’s investment climate going forward. Increased fees for expatriate workers and their dependents, as well as “Saudization” policies requiring certain businesses to employ a quota of Saudi workers, have led to disruptions in some private sector activities. Additionally, Saudi Arabia announced in 2021 that multinational companies wanting to contract with the SAG must establish their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia by 2024. The SAG has taken important steps since 2018 to improve intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, enforcement, and awareness. 


While the sharp downturn in oil prices in 2020 put pressure on Saudi Arabia’s fiscal situation, the subsequent spike in oil prices following Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine increased government revenue and the SAG ran an estimated $27 billion budget surplus in 2022. It expects a $4.26 billion surplus in 2023.


For more information, please refer to: https://www.state.gov/reports/2023-investment-climate-statements/saudi-arabia/


News Briefing for April 2024

April 26        The various Saudi Vision 2030 initiatives have now been completed or are on track to meet targets. Out of the 1,064 initiatives that have been rolled out under the ambitious strategy, 87% are complete or on track. 


April 22        Saudi Arabia took its Neom road show to China. Neom officials visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to court Chinese investors and shed more light on the mysterious megacity.


April 15      The World Bank has raised its expectations for Saudi Arabia’s economic growth to 5.9% in 2025 from 4.2% predicted earlier in January. In its latest report the bank, however, revised its 2024 forecast for the Kingdom’s gross domestic product growth downward to 2.5% from an earlier forecast of 4.1%.


April 15      Starting April 16, 2024, flights will operate from Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen to Riyadh. The summer 2024 schedule will see four passenger/commercial flights and three air cargo flights weekly. 


April 4        Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are moving forward with a strategic railway network project that would significantly reduce travel times between the two countries. According to Kuwait’s Ministry of Public Works, the project is expected to be completed by 2028.


April 3       Saudi Arabia has seen a big rise in e-payments by individuals, making up 70% of total individual transactions in 2023, up from 62% in 2022—a 13% increase. According to the Saudi Central Bank, almost all transactions, 96%, were made using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.


News Briefing for March 2024

March 22      Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya Investment Company revealed plans to construct the world’s first-ever “Dragon Ball” theme park. Spanning over 500,000 square meters, the park will transport visitors into the vibrant world of Goku and his epic adventures.


March 21      The number of POS operations in Saudi Arabia during the first week of Ramadan reached 168,615,000, with a value of SR11,688,154,000. The number of operations in clothing and shoes reached 6,283,000 with a value of SR914,909,000 while the number of operations in construction materials stood at 1,522,000, with a value of SR307,596,000.


March 21      The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has reported remarkable progress in Saudi Arabia's air traffic performance for 2023. In 2023, the Kingdom experienced a 16% increase in the total number of flights, rising from 701,290 to 814,995. The number of passengers surged by 26% from 88 million to 112 million. 


March 18       The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has approved the classification of foreign investors (owners of private establishments) as Saudis under the Nitaqat Saudization program. This is one of the provisions for the classification of categories of people who will be treated equal to Saudis while calculating the percentage of Saudization. 


March 17       Saudi Arabia has attracted approximately $13 billion in private investments for its burgeoning tourism sector, positioning the Kingdom as a burgeoning travel destination. These investments are set to introduce between 150,000 to 200,000 new hotel rooms within the next two years, as part of the nation's ambitious plans to amplify its tourism offerings.


March 16     S&P Global Rating has reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings at 'A/A-1', maintaining a Stable Outlook.


March 15     Non-oil activities in Saudi Arabia recorded their highest contribution to the real gross domestic product (GDP) during the year 2023, representing 50%, which is the highest historical level it has ever reached. 

News Briefing for February 2024

February 29  Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih announced that over 350 international investors have so far obtained licenses to establish their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia, most of which will be in Riyadh.

 

February 28  Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said that the ministry is working on a program to Saudize 75 percent of jobs in the energy sector.

 

February 27  The National Transformation Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 programs, was able to accomplish 34 strategic goals, equivalent to 35 percent, last year, out of 96 goals set to be achieved by 2030.

 

Feb 26  Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund has hired banks to tap the debt market for the second time this year with an Islamic dollar bond, a document emailed to the banks and reviewed by Reuters showed.

 

Feb 20   A subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund with ambitions to develop sophisticated technology announced a $200 million partnership with a Chinese surveillance technology company Dahua Technology previously sanctioned by the United States.

 

Feb 20   Saudi Arabia has invited the market to join a public consultation on a planned framework to enable large shareholders to float additional shares, said Abdullah Binghannam, Deputy of Financing and Investment, Capital Market Authority.

 

Feb 19   Saudi Arabia's non-oil growth is expected to come in above 5% in the medium term, Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said, slightly lower than the 6% figure previously projected, but likely to outperform the wider region this year.

 

Feb 12   Saudi Arabia's U-turn on its oil capacity expansion plans was because of the energy transition, its energy minister said , adding that the kingdom has plenty of spare capacity to cushion the oil market.

 

Feb 07   Saudi Arabia drew 27 million foreign tourists in 2023 and has more than doubled its goal for the end of the decade, an official said.


News Briefing for January 2024

January 31    The balance of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Saudi Arabia jumped to SR762 billion ($203.2 billion) by the end of 2022, compared to 2021 when it reached SR659 billion ($175.7 billion).


January 23    Mohammed Elkuwaiz, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA), said that the authority intends to allow non-Saudis to invest for the first time in listed companies that own real estate in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.


January 15    The Consumer Price Index or inflation in Saudi Arabia recorded a decrease of 1.5 percent during December 2023, compared to December 2022, which recorded a rate of 1.7 percent.


January 4    The Saudi Ministry of Investment has revealed that it issued more than 2100 investment licenses in the third quarter of 2023, with a growth rate of 135.4 percent on an annual basis. 


January 4    The Saudi Ministry of Commerce revealed that more than 95,000 commercial registers have been issued during the fourth quarter of 2023, an increase of 23 percent year-on-year, bringing the total commercial registers to more than 1.4 million by the end of the year.