'Inspired leadership' and co-operation key to post-Covid economic recovery

Governments, regulators and business community must come together, Saudi British Bank chairwoman says

Delegates attend the a debate during the fourth edition of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference at the capital Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel on January 27, 2021. Saudi Arabia opened a two-day Davos-style investment forum, with dozens of global policy makers and business tycoons lined up to speak at the largely virtual event amid the coronavirus pandemic. Only 200 of around 8,000 registered delegates attended in-person, while around 100 speakers are set to participate virtually with 50 present physically. Previous summits drew thousands of Wall Street titans and global policymakers. / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE
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Governments, regulators, businesses and scientific communities must join to resolve the issues “amplified” by the pandemic and prepare the world for the post-Covid era, says Lubna Olayan, chairwoman of the Saudi British Bank.

“We must all work together on global level … across sectoral basis,” Ms Olayan told the fourth Future Investment Initiative on Thursday evening.

“We know the co-operation works. Look how quickly the vaccine was done through collaboration, and in record time.”

She said that to steer the global economy through the crisis will require “inspired leadership".

Businesses will have to implement sustainable practices and there should be full accountability and complete transparency, Ms Olayan told the FII concluding panel.

The discussion was moderated by Princess Reema bint Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US.

The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for businesses to reassess their relationship with the planet, Ms Olayan said, speaking of the climate crisis, threat of diseases and worsening unemployment.

"None of these are new problems but what is new is how they have been amplified by this pandemic," she said.

“We should not let a crisis go to waste."

Ms Olayan said it was incumbent on business to implement best environment, social and governance practices and policies.

The Covid-19 pandemic has tipped the global economy into the deepest recession since the 1930s, as it upended the travel and tourism sector and disrupted global trade and supply chains.

The virus had infected more than 101 million people and killed more than 2.18 million as of Thursday, Johns Hopkins University data shows.

The International Monetary Fund this week upgraded its growth estimate for the global economy this year as countries introduced Covid-19 vaccines.

It expects the world economy to expand 5.5 per cent in 2021, after a 3.5 per cent contraction in 2020.

The estimate is not without risk given the prevalence of mutant strains of the virus, which have forced new lockdowns in parts of Europe, Asia and North America.

Although the world's long-term vision is to steer the economy out of the crisis, “today matters and we need to deliver, day after day, value for people", said Jean Lemierre, chairman of  BNP Paribas.

“The post-Covid time is a long race for recovery and improvement but we need to be absolutely sure that people receive value during [this period], otherwise they will not win the race,” Mr Lemierre said.