January 25th, 2010
03:42 PM GMT
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (CNN) - I woke up after an overnight flight from London with the Winter sun of the Arabian desert and the sound of steel rods being loaded up, cranes moving beams, workers toiling away. The Kingdom is spending a half trillion dollars over the next five years – recycling oil wealth closer to home – and you can see it everywhere. All that spending barely got Saudi Arabia into positive growth last year, but that is far better than the global recession of 2.2%. Saudi Arabia is expected to grow by four percent this year.
We are at the crossroads with the CNN covering the Global Competitiveness Forum with thought leaders mainly from the West looking to establish a foothold in the region’s largest market. Michael Dell, John Chambers of Cisco, Martin Sorrell of WPP all make it a point to come here before Davos. They share stories of innovation and even failure.
Saudi government leaders want to set the climate for reform and hope these visitors can help that process along. There is a business push in Riyadh but as the local leaders I am speaking to on the ground know, this has to reach into all corners of society to get collective buy in.
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