Yasir al-Rumayyan absent from Saudi Arabia investment conference


RIYAD, Saudi Arabia – This week, as Saudi Arabia held its annual investment conference in Riyadh, a boisterous event that draws business leaders and politicians from around the world, the big mystery was what is arrived at the host.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, the Saudi official who oversees the kingdom’s $ 450 billion sovereign wealth fund, was absent from the annual investment conference he usually chairs.

He did not give a keynote address in the conference ballroom, as he was supposed to, and he did not show up at a panel discussion with the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and the firm of BlackRock fund management.

He was even absent from the signature night of the week: a sumptuous dinner for dozens of speakers at his home in Riyadh, the capital.

The event’s organizers, the Future Investment Initiative, referred questions about Mr. al-Rumayyan’s absence to the Saudi government. Kevin Foster, global communications manager for the Public Investment Fund, did not respond to a request for comment.

There is probably a trivial explanation. Four attendees with close ties to Mr al-Rumayyan said he was diagnosed with Covid-19, a story that was widely whispered in conversations on the sidelines of the conference. The New York Times could not confirm this information.

But the lack of an official explanation inadvertently highlighted one of the biggest concerns investors have with the Saudi fund.

By failing to acknowledge Mr al-Rumayyan’s sudden absence at an event intended to demonstrate Saudi investment and growth, the fund only reminded investors that it still operates by its own rules – according to which transparency no is not always a priority.

“Every organization struggles to know how to be present, how to be visible, and then these things happen,” said Karen E. Young, senior researcher at the Middle East Institute, a research institute in Washington that focuses on American relations with the Middle East. “I think that’s where we all are, unfortunately. Sometimes communications between government and government entities do not necessarily always go well together.

The Public Investment Fund, which is headed by the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wants to be taken seriously internationally.

In addition to his many investments in Saudi Arabia, he is a major investor in various international entities. These include Uber, where Mr. al-Rumayyan is a board member, electric vehicle company Lucid Motors and a large infrastructure investment fund of Blackstone, the capital firm. -investment.

The fund has established itself as a world leader in governance and transparency. But some companies fear investing in a country that has committed human rights atrocities, and many analysts doubt there is really a wall between the fund and the royal family.

After a wave of coronavirus cases last year, Saudi Arabia has turned the numbers around with a relatively high vaccination rate and a low number of cases, according to the World Health Organization. The government requires proof of vaccination for international travelers.

What to know about Covid-19 booster injections

The FDA has cleared booster shots for millions of recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna beneficiaries who are eligible for a recall include people 65 years of age and older and young adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 due to medical conditions or their workplace. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna beneficiaries may receive a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients will be eligible for a second injection at least two months after the first.

Yes. The FDA has updated its clearances to allow medical providers to boost people with a different vaccine than the one they originally received, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you have received Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or Pfizer-BioNTech, you may receive a booster of any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended any vaccine over another as a booster. They have also remained silent on whether it is best to stick to the same vaccine when possible.

The CDC said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and some disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

The FDA has cleared the boosters for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says this group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; correctional workers; workers in the US postal service; public transport workers; employees of grocery stores.

Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy websites allow people to schedule a flu shot along with a booster dose.

Mr. al-Rumayyan, who is the public face of the kingdom’s increasingly global investment network, has had a particularly busy travel schedule of late.

On October 17, he sat in the owner’s lodge at St. James’s Park football stadium in Newcastle, England, where he was cheered by fans. He wore a black and white scarf bearing the logo of Newcastle United, the Premier League football team in which the Public Investment Fund recently bought a stake, making him the club’s new chairman.

Two days later he shook hands with Queen Elizabeth at the Global Investment Summit at Windsor Castle, an event intended to highlight green technologies and financial investment opportunities in Britain. After that, he traveled to Washington, DC, where he received a leadership award at a Middle East Institute 75th anniversary event.

Despite his absence, the investment peak, which ended on Thursday, went well. Thousands of attendees gathered at the Ritz-Carlton and its adjoining conference center to watch panel discussions and tech showcases, mingling and sipping coffee and munching on pastries between sessions.

Prince Mohammed made a surprise appearance on Tuesday. He did not speak, but received a standing ovation.

Ben Hubbard contributed reporting from Beirut.

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