Interview: Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud

What steps have been taken to drive public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the Makkah region?

PRINCE KHALID BIN FAISAL AL SAUD: Makkah has supported PPP programmes to advance development in the region. The Integration Development Centre (IDC) was established in 2015, with the primary aim of stimulating private sector participation in development projects. The IDC’s efforts have helped the Treasury save SR2bn ($533.2m) since its inception.

In 2018 the first ever Makkah Region Economic Forum was held, and the second session is set to take place in 2019. The forum is focused on emphasising the benefits of PPPs in accelerating development and the transfer of knowledge. It also aims to highlight the investment opportunities in the region to facilitate partnerships with international companies.

Additionally, my annual visits to the provinces over the last couple of years have emphasised investment opportunities for the private sector. To this end, the region’s development strategy for the next decade has been updated to follow this approach.

What has been done to encourage foreign investment in the region’s infrastructure?

PRINCE KHALID: In the Makkah region we are working to provide the necessary facilities for both local and foreign investors. For example, the Al Faisaliah project, situated between the cities of Makkah and Jeddah, is recognised as an integrated services city and has attracted interest from both international and local companies. This confirms that the investment environment in the Kingdom is able to appeal to businesses from around the world.

Do you foresee a growth in religious tourism during the Hajj and Umrah seasons, and what has been done to ensure infrastructure is prepared?

PRINCE KHALID: While the cities of Makkah and Madinah are dedicated to worship, not tourism, so the Kingdom does not aim to gain economic benefit from pilgrimage travel, we understand the importance of ensuring there is adequate infrastructure in place for the growing number of visitors.

In addition to the expanded King Abdulaziz International Airport, which began operation in 2018 and is targeted to serve visitors to Jeddah, the Kingdom is working on developing a new international airport in Taif. Foundation works have also commenced for Al Qunfudah Airport, and we are working on developing its air transport system.

We are also working to improve maritime transportation, as the region boasts two large seaports in Jeddah and Rabigh. In addition, the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro line and the Haramain HighSpeed Railway, linking the two cities of Makkah and Madinah and passing through Jeddah and Rabigh, is a vital mode of transport for pilgrims. A new road connecting Makkah to Jeddah and King Abdulaziz Airport is also under development, which will be an important traffic artery in the region.

How is education and training being matched with the needs of the local labour market?

PRINCE KHALID: All 17 governorates of the Makkah region have a university – there are five university headquarters in the major cities and twelve branches distributed across the provinces. Additionally, colleges and technical institutes have been established across the region.

The region’s universities have modernised their teaching methods and curriculum in order to ensure students are knowledgeable, cultured and prepared to enter the workforce. This has been shown to be successful as students in Makkah have obtained international awards in scientific disciplines. Moreover, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, universities are working to develop new specialisms in order to adapt to the evolving needs of the future labour market.