2017 in review – Clarified By Diligencia (Part 1)
For a region used to turbulence and conflict, 2017 has been an eventful year for the Middle East by any measure.
The motor behind many of the year’s most eye-catching moments was Saudi Arabia which, under the growing power of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured), has not only embarked on a radical programme of social and economic reforms, but also pursued an aggressive foreign policy towards several of its near neighbours (Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon) in a bid to counter a perceived strengthening of Iranian influence in the region.
The aim of this two-part series is to pick up on some of these key themes through the lens of ClarifiedBy.com, for which 2017 was its first full year in operation. By providing accurate and reliable company information on the MENA region we offer a barometer of the key markets and companies being looked at by international investors – often with interesting results.
For a country not normally known for a dramatic domestic news agenda, Saudi Arabia has been full of surprises in 2017. Having started the year with international investors sitting on their hands waiting for more details of the Vision 2030 plan, we saw the lifting of the ban on female drivers in the Kingdom, announcements that cinemas and concerts would now be permitted, a visit by US president Donald Trump as well as the so-called Davos in the desert event in September attended by politicians and business leaders from across the world. This was quickly followed by an advertised crackdown on corruption by the authorities against a number of high profile businessmen and members of the royal family, who were summoned to Riyadh and then detained in luxury hotels in the capital. Some of the extremely well-connected personalities involved include the billionaire Al Waleed bin Talal, Turki Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud and Bakr Binladin, perhaps leaving international investors no better off than they were at the beginning of the year – wondering what is going to happen next.