It's nicknamed the Davos of the desert. But this year's Future Investment Initiative Conference in Saudi Arabia may see a few empty seats. Big names from business, media, and government are pulling out after the apparent killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the US treasury secretary, Steve
is also among the no shows.
But if this is a boycott, it's informal, incomplete, and probably short-lived, where as Tom Arnold has been looking beyond with the headline cancellations.>> Generally, international businesses won't want to act too hastily because there's so much up for grabs still in the Saudi economy. For a start, it is OPEC's largest oil exporter.
It is also a big borrower of defense equipment from the US and Europe. US President Donald Trump announced $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis last year. Finally, the Saudis are also embarking on Vision 2030, an ambitious and wide ranging privatization and reform program, which should offer a wide range of opportunities for investors and banks.
>> The lure of trade with Saudi Arabia may just be too strong. But there is also the reform agenda of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That just happens to involve huge amounts of public spending, and Western firms want a piece of that action. It may explain why some Western banks have not said anything about pulling out.
This week maybe a public relations disaster for Riyadh, in the near future, not so much. Saudi Arabia may just be too rich to ignore.