Opportunities and Challenges for FDI Attraction in MENA Conference
Muscat, Feb 4 - Deliberations of "Opportunities and Challenges for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) Attraction in MENA," conference, organized by the World Bank Group, in collaboration with the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED), kicked-off at Al Bustan Palace Hotel today under the patronage of Sayyid Saud of Hilal al-Busaidi, Minister of State and Governor of Muscat.
The three-day conference aims at highlighting the opportunities and challenges facing institutions and agencies of the investment promotion in the MENA region in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
Sayyid Faisal bin Turki al-Said, Director General of Marketing and Media at PAIPED delivered a speech where he said that the conference coincides with the rapid growth being witnessed by the Sultanate. This resulted in attracting major investments, promoting business sector and generating a considerable number of promising job opportunities for youths.
He pointed out that statistics indicate that the GCC countries have achieved unprecedented leap between 2010 and 2012 in terms of FDI. The rate competes with or has been even higher than the rate achieved in similar emerging economies. He added that despite this rate, the percentage is only very marginal compared to the global FDI. The contribution of FDI to the GDP in the GCC countries indicates that investment in these countries is still a preferred option for many foreign investors taking into account the remarkable political and economic stability of the GCC countries.
Sergio Vela, Head of the Economic and Trade Office at the Spanish Embassy in Muscat and Robert Whyte, Global Product Specialist, Investment Climate Department, World Bank Group delivered speeches.
After the speeches, the conference's sessions began. The first session discussed improving the investment environment during unstable political conditions in the region, the existing investment opportunities, and the role of PAIPED. The session included a panel discussion on the points of strength and weakness in the MENA region from the investor perspective. The conference will continue discussing other themes tomorrow.
A new report from the World Bank Group said that governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) need to improve performance to attract foreign investors as this will reduce the economic problems they are facing in the wake of the recent developments in the region.
The study, issued today, indicate that governmental investment promotion agencies need to do a better job of providing information and assistance to potential investors.
"Business opportunities are being lost in MENA countries because of the continued dominant presence of the public sector in the economy and a public image worsened by the recent unrest in many countries of the region," said Pierre Guislain, Director of the World Bank Group's Investment Climate Department.
"Repairing investor perceptions of risk with effective reforms and good business information is vital. Implementing simple, low-cost, practices to facilitate investment can play a key role in helping economies in the region," he added.
The report shows that some agencies have done a good job of reaching out to investors despite political instability. The website of Tunisia's Foreign Investment Promotion Agency was rated among the world's top 20 websites, and that of Yemen's General Investment Authority improved dramatically. Several other agencies, including those of Egypt and Morocco, also demonstrated good practices.
The new study is titled "Global Investment Promotion Best Practices 2012: Seizing the Potential for Better Investment Facilitation in the MENA Region". It was released during a regional conference in Muscat, Oman co-hosted by Oman's Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (PAIPED) and sponsored by the Government of Spain.
"MENA has much to offer and to gain from international companies and collectively, we have most of the skills and knowledge we need to be very competitive investment facilitators," said Dr. Salim bin Nasser al-Isma'eeli, PAIPED Chairman. "This three-day workshop will allow us to learn from each other and further develop how we promote our countries," he added.
The conference was attended by a number of ministers, undersecretaries, officials and those interested in the topic.