Interview: Suliman Almazroua

Where do you see opportunities to boost the value and competitiveness of the Kingdom’s exports?

SULIMAN ALMAZROUA: Saudi Arabia’s natural resources, including its hydrocarbons and mineral deposits, serve as the basis of efforts to develop downstream industries that further strengthen supply chains and drive economic diversification. In addition to the scale of raw materials, other productivity enablers include the country’s strategic geographic location, modern infrastructure, advantageous monetary system and favourable export policies. These factors enhance the competitiveness of Saudi products and services. In this sense, NIDLP is working with more than 40 entities to execute over 290 initiatives that enhance the kingdom’s competitiveness and further develop an export-oriented manufacturing base. Examples of such initiatives are the establishment of the Saudi EXIM Bank and the Made in Saudi initiative boosting non-oil exports, which addresses the divergence between the relatively diversified base of national industrial capabilities and the country’s perception as a source of hydrocarbons.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic altered the pursuit of Vision 2030 goals in sectors under NIDLP?

ALMAZROUA: Vision 2030 includes a long-term plan to diversify the economy away from oil dependency. Although the pandemic did not impact NIDLP’s longterm strategic goals, it caused us to account for new priorities and fast-track transformation opportunities. This is reflected in the updated NIDLP 2021-25 Delivery Plan, which includes revised national strategies for the energy, mining, industry and logistics services sectors. NIDLP assessed the impact of the pandemic and other potential crises in the programme’s strategy and delivery plan. As a result, the foundations have been laid to tackle future crises and mitigate their economic impact in a way that would best serve NIDLP sectors, accelerate recovery and ensure sustainability. The pandemic caused a major shift in priorities that are related to manpower and supply chains. Hence, NIDLP updated its delivery plan to accelerate the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution applications and enable digital transformation in the programme’s main sectors. The delivery plan strives to improve the connection between the Kingdom’s cities and industrial and mining sites, and seeks to further advance food manufacturing as well as medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Moreover, the plan aims to facilitate the localisation of military industries and increase the reliability and sustainability of energy supplies by switching to smart grids and increasing production from renewables.

Logistics services also experienced a major shift as a result of the pandemic. International logistics providers reshaped their networks and increased investment in technologies to boost agility and efficiency. In response to this trend, the government underscored the centrality of logistics services by launching the National Transport and Logistics Strategy.

What steps have been taken to boost the potential of the country’s nascent mining sector?

ALMAZROUA: The new mining law, enacted in January 2021, will transform the sector. The legislation ensures a transparent and efficient licensing mechanism, allows for full foreign ownership and offers a competitive fiscal regime. With the value of the country’s mineral deposits amounting to approximately $1.3trn, mining is slated to become the third pillar of Saudi Arabia’s economy that will feed a number of downstream industries. There are 38 initiatives that have been included in NIDLP’s delivery plan for the development of the sector, with the most important being the accelerated exploration initiative and the accompanying geological survey. The survey – aimed at providing detailed mapping of nearly 700,000 sq km – will increase the quantity and improve the quality of the data in the National Geological Database, which is published on an online platform to make the information available to stakeholders around the world.