During the 5th Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh
Former US President Bill Clinton addresses the 5th Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh on Tuesday
Former US President Bill Clinton lauded Saudi Arabia for its progress but said small- and mid-sized private enterprises were key to the Kingdom’s long-term job growth and prosperity.
Speaking at the 5th Global Competitiveness Forum here Tuesday, Clinton also issued a cautionary note to nations across the Middle East and North Africa that there were no substitutes for good governance and opportunities for the uneducated and impoverished. Clinton said if the Palestinian-Israeli issue was resolved, the entire region would have potential for growth outstripping China and India.
The former president wasoptimistic about the Saudi economy and praised the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority for its visionary 10x10 program, which sought to elevate the Kingdom’s global competitiveness to among the top 10 countries worldwide by 2010. Saudi Arabia came very close and is now ranked 11th, a significant increase since the program was launched a few years ago.
“The 10x10 program represents Saudi Arabia’s commitment to thinking in terms of the future — not just thinking of the present," Clinton said. “I’m trying to give a greater sense of urgency for the profound implications of 10x10 for Saudi Arabia, the greater region and the key role of the innovation.”
Clinton was impressed by the strides Saudi Arabia was making in embracing alternative energy.
“Recognizing that your competitive advantage is not threatened if the world uses solar, wind, this region should seek to become the epicenter of the sustainable energy economy of the world,” he said. “For example, in African countries which have oil, the money is not used to diversify the economy and create more opportunities. We need to use the resources underneath the ground to create more opportunities for those people that are on top of it.”
He also stressed that sustainable job growth would not come just from industrial cities but from the private sector, as well.
Clinton said if he were the Saudi minister of labor, he would keep the emphasis on training and education, but he would also strive to resolve women’s issues so that talent can help power the economy.