Bankers and Financiers Fly to Davos in the Desert

While official US-Saudi Arabia relations are still tense due to the production of oil, America's most prominent financial experts, bankers, and businesspeople aren't worried because they are all set to travel to the very inaugural Future Investment Initiative gathering in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which begins on Tuesday. In the end, there's money – lots and lots of it, to be discussed.

The business conference has been called “Davos in the Desert,” in reference to the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland. It is reported that the Biden Administration is criticizing attendees The New York Times:

“The Biden administration's message for corporate America was simple: Take into consideration your reputation in the nations you conduct business with.”

“The comment was made by The White House press secretary at an event last week, at the same time that some of the high-ranking American executives were getting ready to attend a significant Saudi business conference with thousands of other businesspeople, investors and political leaders.”

However, the message appears to be going unnoticed:

“It is unclear if any American Administration officials are present at the event as Biden is ruminating. The relationship with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Biden has deteriorated and the prince is reported to be publicly mocking Biden and refusing to compromise to his demands for a boost in oil production.”

It's interesting that in all the articles I found about the event, none of them mentioned “climate change,” even though there was an absolute Who's Who of carbon obsessive businesses and officials from different nations. It's likely that the topic was not on the top list of Saudi priority items, given the fact that they've built their kingdom on the dirt beneath their sands. It's easy for this group. Here's an overview of the Davos, Switzerland gathering last May:

The kingdom fossil fuels have built isn't a concern for any of these luminaries, especially if there are lots of deals to be made. Here's the (very) an incomplete listing of the participants:

The CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo all plan to be in attendance, as will prominent investors such as the Blackstone Group, chief Stephen A. Schwarzman, and the Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio. Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin, both former Trump Administration officials that have received significant pledges from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in order to fund their investment companies and other ventures, are expected to travel.

Senior government officials who hail from Singapore, Russia, and Nigeria.

The majority of mainstream media coverage has been positive despite the country's long history of human rights violations. There have been numerous stories that focused on the kingdom's increasing influence and efforts to modernize and are using this event as something of a “coming-out” celebration. From NBC:

“The world's largest oil producer and the world's most populous Middle Eastern economy is hosting this event at an important moment in its history as it is seeking to change its government, economy, and, in some cases, society.”

The New York Times meanwhile:

“The excitement surrounding the conference this year only highlights the extent to which Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund as well as its growing open markets have become significant sources of influence across the globe. Investors and tycoons are eager to meet with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is considered to be the de facto Saudi chief, in light of the huge opportunities he could provide. A lot of them have stayed away from the growing crackdown on opposition in the country or claim that they are focused on his effort to expand the country's economy and reduce social restrictions.”

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