Tim Callen, the International Monetary Fund’s Mission Chief to Saudi Arabia, said that the Saudi economy has made a major stride towards digital transformation, emphasizing the importance of cooperation between the Kingdom and the IMF.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Callen said the Fund maintained contact with the Saudi authorities about domestic economic policies, stressing that the Kingdom was an important member of the IMF and contributed significantly to discussions and policies within the institution.
According to the latest IMF forecast, which was recently published in the World Economic Outlook, the global economy would grow by 6 percent and the Saudi economy by 2.9 percent during 2021, Callen told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The head of the IMF mission to Saudi Arabia emphasized that the non-oil economy was witnessing a strong growth in 2021.
He noted that oil GDP was growing at a slower pace as Saudi Arabia and its OPEC+ partners continue to implement the production agreement, which would enhance the knowledge economy, diversify economic resources and increase the competitiveness of Saudi non-oil products in global markets.
“Saudi non-oil products in the international markets still focus mainly on petrochemicals and other chemical products, although other sectors play some role,” Callen said, adding that pilgrimage was another area that brings foreign income to Saudi Arabia.
“All these sectors provide opportunities for growth, including renewable energy,” he noted.
Callen continued: “Increasing the competitiveness of Saudi products in international markets depends ultimately on aligning wages with productivity and investment in human, digital and traditional infrastructure.”
Asked about his expectations on the impact of vaccines on restoring confidence in the international economy, the head of the IMF mission to Saudi Arabia said that the future course of the global economy would be determined in part by the race between the virus and vaccines; where greater progress in this area could raise expectations, while new variants that evade vaccines might lead to poor growth.
He stressed, however, that an extended coverage of vaccines would enable closely connected sectors to resume work and increase travel, which would boost the most affected tourism and hospitality sectors.