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Reimagining International Investment in an Interdependent World Amid COVID-19

The Minister of International Cooperation H.E. Dr. Rania A. Al-Mashat, called for strengthening partnerships between governments and the private sector to accelerate the pace of development, taking into account environmental standards in new investments to support green recovery,

during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) 4th Edition Program Multi-hub Conference on January 27, 2021, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The FII brings leaders, investors, and policymakers under this year’s theme “The Neo-Renaissance'' to reimagine the global economy alongside the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Al Mashat participated in the plenary session “Leveling Up: How will a New Era of Interdependence Reinvigorate International Investment?”, moderated by the Senior Presenter and Executive Producer of AlArabiya in Saudia Arabia, Fatima Daoui, featuring H.E. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, Minister of Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; H.E. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO, DP World, UAE; Lord Grimstone of Boscobel, Minister for Investment, Department for International Trade and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK; and Eric Cantor, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Moelis & Company, USA. Overall FII, brought together over 140 speakers ranging between investors and policymakers. The FII’s opening speaker was the Governor of the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia,Yasir Al-Rumayyan. The session tackled rethinking new models of investment through partnerships and innovation, with the inclusion of stronger, smarter and more diverse supply chains to remain resilient and relevant. Al-Mashat expressed that through interdependence and multilateral cooperation, international investment can be strengthened. She added that utilizing digitalization is more necessary than ever before. Having trade procedures, such as payments and documentation, digitized can help increase productivity and collaboration, and also reduce overall trade costs. While having a positive impact on the environment, this can also allow for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to enter the global market. The Minister added that incorporating a digital approach to trade requires clear trade agreements that ensure safe and secure payment systems and coordination between countries to avoid cybersecurity attacks. “One of the ways to reduce the cost of trade is through digital platforms. It has been estimated that we can increase trade by 1-2% by utilizing digital efforts,” said Al-Mashat. The minister also stressed that the ‘new normal’ calls for regional integration and for strengthening partnerships in the Middle East and Africa region to support a flexible recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. “At the beginning of 2020, there was a rhetoric around more countries being isolated but as April came along, the importance of collaborating and multilateralism came back; and it came back with innovation,” she said. Al-Mashat shared that Egypt has recently taken steps towards this mindset through the joint Egyptian-Iraqi High Committee that convened last year. During the meeting, 15 cooperation documents were agreed upon in various fields within the framework of tripartite cooperation between Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. Moreover, the minister explained that Egypt strengthened its partnership with Eastern Mediterranean countries in terms of the energy sector, having launched the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF). Al-Mashat said that the government’s homegrown economic reform program that began in 2016 pushed the country in the right direction, including in strengthening partnerships between the public and private sector in order to implement major national projects in various fields. Through cooperation with multilateral and bilateral development partners, development funds are secured and made available to state-priority projects. She added that partnerships between the government and the private sectors, and in cooperation with multilateral and bilateral development partners, led to many major projects that have become a model for the world to follow, such as the Benban Solar Complex in Aswan, the largest solar power plant in the world. This project was implemented in partnership with government, private sector, and development partners represented by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). “The role of the state is to look at regulations closely and to bring everyone to the same table; private sector, civil society, and development partners. This arrangement fosters a cohesive dialogue and creates stronger action plans through predictive policies and by following the principles of stakeholder capitalism,” Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation added. The economic reform program also helped the state mitigate the economic impacts and shock posed by the pandemic, and it enabled the country to achieve a positive growth rate in 2020 thus leading to the many international institutions referencing Egypt as a special case despite challenging circumstances. Al-Mashat indicated that Egypt has succeeded in selling $750 million in green bonds in September in what was the region’s first sovereign offering of climate-friendly securities. This was used in financing green projects that adhere to environmental goals and standards, and it also witnessed a large number of investors reflecting confidence in the local market. In 2020, the Ministry of International Cooperation secured $9.8 billion in development financing that meet various targets by 2030. These funds were allocated to state sectors such as, but not limited to, infrastructure, transportation, the development of Sinai, health, gender equality, sanitation, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The ministry also carried out a mapping exercise of all current effective projects to identify their alignment with relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Minister of International Cooperation called for the necessity to implement the principles of the Stakeholder Capitalism, issued by the Regional Action Group for the Middle East and North Africa of the World Economic Forum, that outline 7 principles: crafting inclusive economic policies and a new social contr