Participants in the 13th Gulf Industrialists Conference agreed that Gulf countries need to develop their knowledge-based industries if they want to diversify and be competitive in the world economy.
The conference, which ended Wednesday (January 18th), was held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event's theme was "Knowledge-based industries and new technologies".
More than 30 international experts and academics participated in the event and shared their expertise with attendees. Politicians, economists, businessmen and government officials in the industry sector also attended.
An exhibition was also held throughout the duration of the conference in which about 100 Arab and international exhibitors representing various industries were on site.
Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan al-Rubaya, the Saudi Minister of Trade and Industry, delivered a speech on behalf of King Abdullah. He said the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has taken several steps to support an economy based on information and advanced technology, such as establishing relevant institutions and knowledge-based cities, developing infrastructure for information technology, increasing research budgets and advancing educational systems.
"Our participation in this important industrial gathering is an opportunity to reach out and interact with different industrial sectors," said Khaled al-Kawary, a Qatari industrial development expert.
Fahad al-Turki, a Saudi industrial consultant, told Al-Shorfa, "Saudi Arabia has made progress in its effort to expand and diversify its economy to include new knowledge-based industries. This has been done by taking advantage of foreign expertise, which has left an indelible mark in this area. Our ultimate goal is to achieve our ambitious development objectives."
He cited the volume of Gulf industrial projects in the petrochemicals industry, which increased from 7,490 projects in 2000 to 13,000 projects in 2010, a nearly 75% increase. He said the total value of investments in this sector increased during the same period from $87 billion to $222 billion.
"Most of the investments were made in strategic industries such as oil refining, petrochemicals, cement, iron and steel which have a positive impact on the economies in the Gulf and strengthened their competitive edge. This enabled the Arab Gulf region to become the most important centre for petrochemicals, liquefied gas and aluminium worldwide," al-Turki said.
Bader Khalfan, an Emirati knowledge economy expert, said that a knowledge-based economy in the Gulf region is still in its infancy.
"The percentage of a knowledge-based economy does not exceed 0.2% [in the Gulf] in comparison with 4% in advanced countries," he told Al-Shorfa.
Khalfan urged Gulf countries to increase their efforts to reach an advanced level in knowledge-based industries and to equip the younger generation with the necessary tools to function within a knowledge-based economy.
Also at the conference, Czech Republic President Václav Klaus shared his country's experiences in making the transition from a socialist economy based upon full state ownership of resources to a free market economy based upon supply and demand.