Influential international politicians, investors, corporate leaders, and policy makers have grappled with the economic challenges and opportunities facing the world during the opening morning sessions of the Future Investment Initiative.
The event is taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The three day event was opened with remarks delivered by the Saudi minister of commerce and investment, Majed Al Qasabi, on behalf of prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and the Public Investment Fund.
Outlining the necessity of international partnership and collaboration, Al Qasabi said that FII represented: “A platform that helps us forge relationships, share ideas, and explore future opportunities.”
His opening remarks were followed by two sessions: the first looking broadly at the new frameworks likely to shape the global economy over the next decades, and the second looking at how data is driving the new information economy.
The morning was concluded by a conversation with former UK prime minister Tony Blair.
The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, opened discussions in the first session by noting that the current picture for the international economy is more positive than it has been for some time, with 3.7 per cent global growth projected.
However, she warned that there were two clear challenges facing the international community that will fundamentally impact development over the next five decades: climate change and the risks from growing inequality.
Addressing these two issues is critical to ensuring a positive future, Lagarde argued.
The concern over rising inequality was supported by Larry Fink, chairman of BlackRock, and David McCormick, co-chief executive of Bridgewater Associates.
Both also cited rising populism in the west, which has been exacerbated by technology, as posing one of today’s greatest risks.
Victor Chu, chairman of Hong Kong’s First Eastern Investment Group, spoke from the Chinese perspective, citing the ‘One Belt, One Road’ infrastructure and development initiative as a key example of a long-term policy for wider economic benefit, not least to emerging frontier economies.
Discussing the kingdom’s plans for investment, PIF managing director, Yasir Al Rumayyan emphasised the importance of creating new international partnerships, citing recent agreements the fund has made with Softbank and Blackstone.
Amin Nasser, president of Saudi Aramco, discussed the future of energy, noting the enormous potential for renewables, while affirming that hydrocarbons will continue to play a key role in the global economy for many decades.
Nasser noted the importance of exploring how to reduce and collect carbon emissions as well as creating more energy efficient systems, while building renewable capabilities.
The second session of the day outlined the enormity of the potential changes and opportunities caused by big data feeding into the emerging knowledge economy.
Thomas Kennedy, chief executive of Raytheon, highlighted that the world is only witnessing the start of big data’s fundamental role in the global economy.
Kennedy predicted that big data will “take off” over the next five years.
Giving an assessment of the current direction of international affairs and the global economy, Blair highlighted that in facing today’s challenges, countries have a choice of nationalism or reform.
Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, he said it was “the most important and exciting thing to happen in the region during the last few years” and while noting the challenges, he said it was “vital that it succeeds as it will affect the region and the security of the rest of the world”.
Organised by PIF, the FII is taking place in Riyadh until October 26th.
The invitation-only event is being organised in the context of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a blueprint that is already charting the path for the kingdom to harness its strategic location and strong investment capabilities.