The seventh annual Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) began at the Hilton yesterday. Nearly 2,700 businessmen and women from Saudi Arabia and other countries have come to Jeddah to participate in the prestigious three-day forum, the first since Saudi Arabia entered the World Trade Organization.
The theme this year is “Seeding Potentials for Economic Growth: Honoring Identity and Celebrating Common Grounds.” Delegates are presenting their ideas for cultivating sustainable growth while preserving cultural diversity and discussing 32 working papers on the issue.
In his opening statement last night, Governor of Makkah Province Prince Abdulmajeed bin Abdulaziz commented that globalization must be accompanied by a respect for cultural diversity. “This contemporary world does not tolerate isolation, but at the same time it recognizes diversity of cultures, and subsequently the success of the development plans depends on such a balance,” the prince said. He also stressed the importance of dialogue and intellectual exchange to economic progress.
Minister of Culture and Information Iyad Madani addressed the opening plenary session on “Saudi Arabia – Vision 2020.” Minister of State Abdullah Zainal Alireza moderated the session. In his remarks, Madani highlighted the Kingdom’s role as a moderating force in the region and the rest of the world.
“Saudi Arabia will continue in its historic role as a moderating force across the world,” Madani said. “It will peruse its tremendous effort to use its resources to the welfare and growth of its people, society and institutions. It will be a source of creative, but authentic, voice in debates of our age. It will remain a vanguard against terrorists and terrorism.”
Commenting on women’s issues, Madani encouraged women to increase their representation in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) before running for office. “The initiative should be taken by women activists,” he said.
Vice-Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Mohammed Al-Jasser, in remarks at a session on “Public Private Partnership: Financing Infrastructure,” said that local banks largely assumed private financing for mega projects in the Kingdom, which only offered short and medium-term loans. He said that foreign banks in Saudi Arabia would be issued new licenses so that more private financing would be available for mega projects.
The other plenary sessions of the day address the issues of “Saudi Arabia in the global village,” “Recognizing diversity in the globalized world,” “Greenfields for the future – the King Abdullah Economic City,” “The Gulf economy in a global context” and “Political adversity and the art of diplomacy,” the Arab News reported today.
Over the three days, 35 plenary and selective sessions will be addressed by 91 speakers, including: Irish President Mary McAleese; Gambian President Alhaji Yahya Jammeh; former Ghana President Jerry Rawlings; former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder; former US Vice President Al Gore; Cherie Booth, lawyer and wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Forbes CEO and Forbes Magazine Editor in Chief Steve Forbes; Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson; former Jordanian Prime Minister Dr. Abdul Salam Majali; Mohamed Al-Abbar, director general of the Dubai department of economic development and chairman of Emaar Properties; Bahia Al-Hariri, member of the Lebanese Parliament and sister of former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri; former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim; and UN Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Obaid, the Arab News reported.
The JEF was established in 2000 at the initiative of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (JCCI) to promote Jeddah’s position as the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia and a center for Middle East business. International, regional and local leaders from the private and public sectors convene annually to discuss global and regional economic, political and social trends, to propose solutions to current and future challenges, and to enhance cooperation among business leaders and organizations.