GZERO Media logo

DENIAL IN THE DESERT: SAUDI ARABIA’S INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

DENIAL IN THE DESERT: SAUDI ARABIA’S INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

What a difference a year (and the murky murder of a journalist) makes. When Saudi Arabia hosted its first Future Investment Initiative last fall, it was a coming-out party for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious vision of economic and social reform. This year, the event (known to the WEF’s chagrin as “Davos in the Desert”) is overshadowed by ongoing furor about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.  As a result, a number of participants have pulled out – but not all.


Here’s a look who’s going, not going, and on the fence – and why:

ATTENDING

Imran Khan: Pakistan’s prime minister desperately needs foreign financing to help solve mounting economic challenges at home, and Khan hopes Riyadh – which has always seen Pakistan as a strategic ally in South Asia  – will give him money with softer conditions than the IMF, with whom Pakistan is currently negotiating.

Chinese business leaders: Not exactly a paragon of the free press itself, China has stayed mostly quiet on the Khashoggi affair. But Beijing is also all business: China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, and the kingdom remains a good oil “hedge” for China as pressure on Iran ramps up. Furthermore, China is probably keen to profit from any downgrade in the kingdom’s relations with the West over the Khashoggi affair.

Russia’s investment chief and a 30-person delegation: No one loves to court jilted American allies in the Middle East more than Russia. Moscow has stayed out of the Khashoggi fray and is quietly hoping that the scandal does erode Washington’s ties to the kingdom, not least in the area of arms sales which Russia would love to make to Riyadh. Russia is also eager to take part, along with China, in the lucrative IPO of Saudi’s state-backed oil giant, Saudi Aramco.

NOT ATTENDING

US business leaders: Top US finance and tech CEOs are shunning the event because of the potential PR blowback. But will US firms actually stop taking tens of billions in investments from – or positions in – Saudi Arabia? The fact they’re still sending lower-level representatives suggests Prince Mohammed may be able to weather this storm yet.

Steve Mnuchin: Facing bipartisan pressure from Congress, the White House cancelled US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s attendance at the conference (he was to give the keynote.) But… yesterday Mnuchin nonetheless traveled to Riyadh and met with the crown prince to discuss other aspects of US-Saudi

cooperation.

MAYBE ATTENDING

Masayoshi Son: Perhaps no one has more to lose from the recent Saudi spiral than Masayoshi Son, the world’s biggest tech investor. The kingdom is the biggest backer of Son’s Vision Fund, which has heavy stakes in startups like Uber, WeWork, and Slack. A last-minute decision to back out could prove an early sign that the tech sector, which has had its share of politically-motivated problems of late, is truly starting to sour on Saudi.

 

Empathy and listening are key to establishing harmonious relationships, as demonstrated by Callista Azogu, GM of Human Resources & Organization for Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), an Eni subsidiary in Abuja. "To build trust is very difficult. To destroy it is very easy," says Callista, whose busy days involve everything from personnel issues to union relationships. She sees great potential for her native Nigeria not only because of the country's natural resources, but because of its vibrant and creative people.

Learn more about Callista in this episode of Faces of Eni.

For the world's wealthiest nations, including the United States, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine has been rocky, to say the least. And as a result, much of the developing world will have to wait even longer for their turn. Part of the challenge, World Bank President David Malpass says, is that "advanced economies have reserved a lot of the vaccine doses." Malpass sat down with Ian Bremmer recently to talk about what his organization is doing to try to keep millions around the world from slipping deeper into poverty during the pandemic. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Saturday will mark the beginning of an historic turning point for European politics as 1,001 voting members of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, hold an online conference to elect a new leader.

Here are the basic facts:

More Show less

For the first time in twenty years, extreme poverty around the world is growing. How does the developing world recover from a pandemic that has brought even the richest nations to their knees? David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, is tasked with answering that question. He joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World to talk about how his organization is trying to keep the developing world from slipping further into poverty in the wake of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Joe Biden wants to move into the White House, but the coast isn't clear. He may need some bleach.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME here.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal