In December 2010, 141 executives in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were asked about business-government cooperation, remaining obstacles to business reform, and ways to enhance the region's competitiveness. The poll's findings, presented at the 2011 Oliver Wyman / Financial Times Conference in Abu Dhabi, include:
- Confidence generally increased among the region's top executives (up 30 percentage points from autumn 2009), with marginally higher confidence in Saudi Arabia than in the UAE. (See chart, below.)
- Restrictive labor regulations and limited access to financing were cited as key systemic issues across the region.
- Privatization is seen as an opportunity for growth and a priority for regional governments.
- Focus on growth has turned inward, away from more distant geographies (e.g., BRIC nations).
There are some notable differences in responses from the two countries. For example, Saudi executives are more optimistic than UAE executives, and their confidence in future business conditions appears to be stabilizing. UAE executives, by contrast, are more positive about the future than about current conditions. When asked about potential threats, UAE executives more frequently cited "macroeconomic shocks," as opposed to events such as leadership changes, terrorism, or political or military conflicts.
"Data like these from business leaders going back to 2009 can help government officials make better-informed decisions," said John Turner, who leads Oliver Wyman's Government Practice in the Middle East. "Leaders in business and government are aware that they cannot go back to 'business as usual,' and keeping momentum on reforms that matter is a high priority. There is a small window of opportunity that needs to be leveraged now."
Oliver Wyman in the Middle East
Our Middle Eastern offices are located in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh, and we serve clients in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and beyond. Oliver Wyman's industry focus in the region includes financial services, aviation, telecommunications, transportation, and energy, and we support our clients in a broad range of assignments, including growth, reorganization, and turnaround strategies; new business planning and startup support; post-merger integration of global acquisitions; and design of new corporate governance structures.