Efficiency and success: New York is given insight into the revamped Saudi wealth fund

Chief executive of Public Investment Fund says job and wealth creation for population are key aims

epa06216195 Chief Executive, Managing Director and Secretary-General of the Board, Public Investment Fund, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan during a discussion titled 'Development, Investment and the Future of Energy in the Middle East'  during the inaugural Bloomberg Global Business Forum at the Plaza Hotel in New York, New York, USA, 20 September 2017. The forum will feature more than 50 heads of state and 250 international CEOs as it is held on the sidelines of the ongoing nearby General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly.  EPA/ANDREW GOMBERT
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Saudi Arabia has set its sights on improving the quality of life of its citizens and expatriates.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chief executive of the Saudi Public Investment Fund – one of the world’s most important sovereign wealth funds – spoke in New York of his institution’s role in driving the Saudi Vision 2030 forward.

Mr Al-Rumayyan told business executives and policymakers at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York yesterday that there was a new approach to the fund, giving priority to efficiency and success.

“If it isn’t efficient, it won’t work out,” he said.

He was joined in a panel by Goldman Sachs chairman and chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, who said that in Saudi Arabia “there is growth in the country and an opportunity posed by the population”, which is young and dynamic.

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Mr Blankfein said that “the compulsion of demographics and restructuring of energy markets” was adding to the changing dynamic in Saudi Arabia.

While the fund has been focused on external portfolio investment, it has changed direction “to invest in industry and create jobs”, he said.

He seemed excited about the developments in Riyadh, saying “they have a changing programme and a burst of energy.

“The youth are very eager to see success and there are a lot of people championing success,” Mr Blankfein said.

That success rests on Vision 2030, the all-encompassing Saudi blueprint for growth and transforming the economy.

“Now we have a target for medium and long term,” Mr Al-Rumayyan said of Vision 2030. “We have 543 initiatives, with 376 key performance indicators.”

He said that this was not “just about the vision, but also the execution and how to monitor the initiatives”.

The investment fund is the main enabler of Vision 2030 and the drive for change and growth.

Mr Al-Rumayyan spoke about its transformation from a fund focused on public development.

“It was established in 1971 with a totally different mandate,” he said. “Now we have different vision and mission. It has to now make commercial sense.”

Mr Al-Rumayyan said the Saudi leadership had placed a priority on attracting talent.

“We want to increase the standard of living for Saudis and those working in Saudi,” he said. “We want Saudi cities to be among the best cities to live in. We need to have better ecosystems.”

Some projects in Saudi Arabia had not worked in the past, largely because “master planners would come in with a big idea” that did not make financial sense or did not suit Saudi Arabia, Mr Al-Rumayyan said. That has now changed.

“The ecosystem has to be more appealing, with better airports, better visa systems and wider improvement,” he said.

“We want to attract talent, not just money.”

Mr Al-Rumayyan spoke of the fund’s forum next month in Riyadh, where plans for the country would be discussed and projects unveiled.

Mike Bloomberg is expected to be a key partner at the event.

Yesterday, his company and Saudi Research and Marketing Group announced a deal to launch Bloomberg’s first Arabic-language channel.