‘Com­pa­nies strug­gling to ab­sorb re­forms’

New Straits Times - - Business -

RIYADH: Saudi Ara­bia lined up prom­i­nent of­fi­cials and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers to pro­mote plans to wean the econ­omy off oil on the first day of United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s visit to Saudi Ara­bia. Among them was one of the king­dom’s rich­est women.

De­liv­er­ing rare pub­lic re­marks in her home coun­try, bil­lion­aire busi­ness­woman Lubna Al-Olayan said com­pa­nies had strug­gled with the mag­ni­tude of changes im­posed by author­i­ties in the first year of the so-called Vi­sion 2030 plan. She, how­ever, praised the “open dis­cus­sion” be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“From the pri­vate sec­tor point of view, I think we’re very ex­cited about this Vi­sion 2030 and the trans­for­ma­tion ef­forts,” said AlOlayan, who rarely grants in­ter­views, dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at the Saudi-US CEO Fo­rum on Satur­day.

Al-Olayan, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Olayan Fi­nanc­ing Co. and co-chair of the fo­rum, was the only wo­man on the panel, speak­ing along with top of­fi­cials in­clud­ing En­ergy Min­is­ter Khalid Al Falih and Yasir Al­ru­mayyan, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the coun­try’s sov­er­eign wealth fund.

She spoke of new op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in busi­ness in the con­ser­va­tive king­dom.

In­creas­ing fe­male employment is a key ob­jec­tive of Vi­sion 2030, spear­headed by Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

More women are be­ing named to se­nior po­si­tions in fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­tries. Sarah Al Suhaimi in Fe­bru­ary be­came the first wo­man to head the Saudi Stock Ex­change, also known as Tadawul.

Samba Fi­nan­cial Group, one of the king­dom’s ma­jor banks, fol­lowed by nam­ing Ra­nia Mah­moud Nashar as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer. Bloomberg

REUTERS PIC

Olayan Fi­nanc­ing Co chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Lubna Al Olayan at the Saudi-U.S. CEO Fo­rum 2017 in Riyadh.

Fran­coisPhilippe Cham­pagne

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