Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris will not invest in Saudi Arabia as he says he does not believe there’s rule of law in the country, and has some concerns about human rights there.
Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble if he would invest in the kingdom, Sawiris said: “No, I would not.”
“Personally, I can invest anywhere in the world, why would I go somewhere where I am not convinced there is a rule of law and order. And that there is real democracy, and that people are free,” Sawiris said Tuesday at the MENA Summit 2019 in Abu Dhabi organized by the Milken Institute.
Saudi Arabia has been under intense scrutiny in recent months, especially after the high-profile killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared last October after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi journalist, who also wrote for the Washington Post, was a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish officials said he was killed by Saudi agents, but Riyadh denies those allegations. After more than two weeks of denying that he was kidnapped and murdered, Saudi authorities finally admitted he was killed inside the consulate.
Khashoggi’s death prompted the U.S. Treasury to impose economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including the crown prince’s former top aide Saud al-Qahtani, who was fired as a result of the investigations.
“I think it goes together — political stability and economic stability, they go together. And also, you need to be somewhere you are comfortable,” Sawiris said, adding that Riyadh needs to “come straight on human rights.”
The kingdom of 33 million has seen steady drops in foreign direct investment flows over the last decade, something it needs for its ambitious Vision 2030 initiative to diversify the country’s economy and grow private sector jobs. Obstacles remain in the form of skills shortages, lower oil prices and rising unemployment in the kingdom.