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Khashoggi crisis compounds bankers’ ‘Vision 2030’ fears

The murder of a Saudi journalist has led to the withdrawal of international financiers from Saudi Arabia’s state-run investment conference, and compounded growing fears over the kingdom’s leadership.

A steady stream of cancellations by high-ranking bankers scheduled to speak at Saudi Arabia’s ‘Future Investment Initiative’ (FII), due to begin tomorrow, is the latest sign of strain between the kingdom and the international banks needed to deliver its ‘Vision 2030’ reform programme.

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Jamal Khashoggi

The banking community’s public turn against Saudi Arabia comes after widespread outrage at the disappearance and since confirmed death of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist who wrote critically of the kingdom’s leadership.

Though this crisis represents the biggest blow yet to the kingdom’s financial reform objectives, it is far from the first. It follows months of discreetly mounting concerns among international financiers over Saudi Arabia’s business prospects, as erratic moves by its authorities undermined the Vision’s purported goal of liberalizing the kingdom’s economy and broader society.

As reported in Euromoney’s September issue, a number of bankers have viewed the kingdom’s blockade of neighbour and former ally Qatar, and its decision to sell its assets in Canada because a minister from that country had expressed her support for Saudi human rights activists, as warning signs that business with Saudi Arabia was contingent on the whims of a temperamental regime.