Saudi Arabia must find new way to lure expat workers, says top CEO

Goldman Sachs Group chief Lloyd Blankfein says Gulf kingdom must address cultural differences with the West
Foreign workers gather outside Saudi immigration department as they try to get visas and legalise their work situation in 2013 in Riyadh . (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)
By Bloomberg
Fri 22 Sep 2017 12:33 AM

Goldman Sachs Group Inc CEO Lloyd Blankfein said Saudi Arabia must address cultural differences with the West to attract more foreign workers as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil.

“Nobody has done this without attracting a lot of expats and a lot of people,” Blankfein said Wednesday at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York. The challenge will be persuading them to move to a nation with large cultural differences, he said. The nation’s handling of the state-run oil company, Saudi Arabian Oil Co, which does business within a district where expats come and go, may offer a template, he said.

“Maybe what you have to do is build districts,” Blankfein said. “At the same time you haven’t really cleared up all the cultural differences, maybe you can create districts where there are certain behaviors that are allowed and other places where they are not.”

Blankfein spoke on a panel with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the managing director of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the $111 billion Public Investment Fund. Al-Rumayyan said the Kingdom is considering all options, included gated districts.

The fund plans to become the world’s largest when the government gives it ownership of Aramco along with the proceeds from the oil producer’s initial public offering, expected to be the biggest listing ever. Aramco has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, HSBC Bank, Moelis & Co and Evercore Partners Inc to advise on the IPO.

The public offering is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan, dubbed Vision 2030, intended to wean the Arab world’s biggest economy off oil.

Goldman Sachs has been expanding in Saudi Arabia. The bank was one of the firms that helped arrange the nation’s debut international bond sale last year, and the kingdom’s Capital Market Authority has given Goldman Sachs approval to trade local equities.

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