On behalf of Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of the Interior Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz today inaugurated the three-day Fifth Conference for Saudi Businessmen organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce, in which over one thousand Saudi businessmen are participating.
Speaking on the occasion, Chairman of Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry Abdelrahman Al-Jereisi highlighted the significant progress attained by Saudi Arabia in many areas, quoting Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz as saying that the public and private sectors should work together for the development of the country. He went on to point out that Saudi businessmen, fully aware of their role in this, realize the importance of recruiting nationals in the work force.
Chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry Isma'il Abu Dawood remarked that some thirty years have elapsed since the Kingdom started to plan for the implementation of development projects, noting that the Sixth Development Plan, just ending, has yielded very positive results. He pointed out that the private sector's contribution to the Gross National Product amounted to about 40 percent last year, and expressed satisfaction at the establishment of the Higher Economic Council. He said this conference, under the motto 'the private sector as a partner in the development process', aims at projecting the important role being played by the private sector in the development of the national economy and the necessary requirements for the activation of this role.
Minister of Commerce Osama Faqih declared that the Kingdom's private sector is dynamic, and capable of adapting itself to all circumstances and contributing positively to the process of economic and social development. He said that the Saudi private sector, unlike those of developing countries, is characterized by three aspects:
1. The Saudi private sector possesses the required capital for implementation of investment projects and diversification of sources of the national economy.
2. Saudi businessmen of the new generation have acquired high qualifications and rich experience in dealing with foreign partners in the implementation of productive projects; moreover, they believe in the importance of domestic investment.
3. The prevailing economic system in the Kingdom is based on the principle of free enterprise and enjoys a suitable environment for production and innovation.
In regard to the opportunities and challenges of the future, Minister Faqih said they include privatization, investment, Saudization, the new Higher Economic Council, and membership in the World Trade Organization.
In his address, Prince Nayef reiterated that the Saudi economy depends on the principle of free enterprise that is based on the teachings of Islam. He praised the support being extended by the state to the private sector, which has become an effective element in the process of development. The aim is to make the national industries competitive in global markets, to promote exports, and to attract further investments, pointing out that direct foreign investments facilitate technology transfer and improve productive capacity.
Prince Nayef went on to underline the importance of Saudi nationals finding suitable jobs, noting that the state has been giving top priority to educational, cultural and vocational institutions as well as to technical and rehabilitation programs. Referring to the importance of the ongoing conference, he declared: "We in the Kingdom feel that we are part of an indivisible whole, that the state works for the service of all citizens, and that businessmen are above all, citizens." He went on to say that women, too, can play a role in economic development, saying that a woman "has her own sphere of work and responsibility". While praising women's role in bringing up the next generation, he said that women can still work alongside men in suitable areas.
The chairmen of the five working sessions of the conference are Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Dr. Ali Al-Namlah, on Saudization and available job opportunities; Minister of Finance and National Economy Dr. Ihrahim Al-Assaf, on diversification of sources of national income; Minister of Commerce Osama Faqih, on the World Trade Organization; Minister of Industry and Electricity Dr. Hashim Abdullah Yamani, on investment in an era of globalization; and Minister of Planning Dr. Khaled Al-Qusaibi, on the role of the private sector.