Interview: Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud
What steps are being taken to develop public-private sector cooperation in Makkah?
PRINCE KHALID BIN FAISAL AL SAUD: Previously, the private sector was hesitant to participate in public projects due to bureaucratic government processes. Now, on a national and provincial level, government is looking to create a better environment and ease of doing business so the private sector can play a bigger role. In Makkah we have established the Integrated Development Centre (IDC) to improve public-private sector cooperation. Currently, the IDC is assisting by directly working with both the private sector and the related government agencies to expedite the process. In the meantime, the IDC is in the process of contracting with a consultant that will review all the related processes and come up with a recommendation that optimises the steps to be taken. The goal is to achieve the required approvals within a few days instead of months. The IDC is setting up its website to be the source of information to potential investors on available opportunities and required investment processes, and to facilitate online applications for existing opportunities or new investment proposals.
To further facilitate private sector investment, the IDC is planning to be the knowledge centre for public-private partnerships (PPPs) through association with experts, including the development of the PPP standard agreement that is supported by government. The IDC is planning to hold an annual forum that will include municipal companies, financial institutions, potential investors, experts in the field and related government agencies to work together to create a more investment-friendly environment.
What industries are being targeted for growth and investment in the Makkah region?
PRINCE KHALID: The Makkah region strategy is not just based on expanding the current industry mix, but is more focused on how to create future long-term, sustainable development. For this the Makkah Region had identified primary focus sectors with all the successful ingredients for investment, such as tourism, health, education and ICT. Secondary sectors, which are crucial for the region but are foreseen for early follow-up stages, are: professional services, logistics, integrated water and power. These stages provide flexibility to adapt to circumstances such as investor interest and global growth. The ingredients for investment are available, therefore, the task is to remove any hurdles on the road for private investors.
In what ways is investment in modern transportation infrastructure expected to support religious tourism and overall economic activity?
PRINCE KHALID: There are many developments in transportation under way. For example, the Haramain High-Speed Rail (HHR) will connect Makkah with Medina in 2.5 hours, bringing these municipalities closer and enabling the leveraging of available resources. Obviously, Umrah and Hajj visitors will benefit greatly from the convenience and flexibility the HHR will offer. In addition, the government has ambitious public transport programmes in both Jeddah and Makkah that include buses, marine taxis, trams and metros. Private sector specialists in each of the programmes have the opportunity to partner with the government and participate in these mega-projects. The partnerships should be creative and realistic, fuelling the entrepreneurship of our partners. The expansion will also attract primary and secondary industries, and we are trying to develop these with our partners as a basis for sustainable development.
In its effort to localise manufacturing, the IDC is communicating with major international manufacturers to establish manufacturing facilities in the Makkah region. Such potential foreign manufacturing interest should go hand in hand with research and development cooperation with our universities.
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