(MENAFN - Arab News) Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal yesterday opened the 13th Jeddah Economic Forum with the participation of nearly 3,000 delegates and 42 speakers from across the world.
In his opening speech, Prince Khaled emphasized the private sector's role in solving the country's housing problem. "We are living a golden era of development and construction," the governor said while expressing hope that the new housing strategy would realize Saudis' aspirations. He stressed the determination of Saudis to transform their dreams into realities.
Saleh Kamel, president of JCCI, said youths account for 90 percent of home seekers here. He stressed the importance of introducing easy installment schemes that would help people buy homes.
Kamel described housing as an global problem. "The population is growing year after year exacerbating the problem." Kamel said: "We have to study whether the problem was created because of a lack of planning and improper utilization of resources."
Housing Minister Shuwaish Al-Duwaihi and Commerce & Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah addressed the gathering. "About 60 percent of Saudis in the Kingdom own houses. This does not mean we don't have a problem. At the same time, we cannot say it has become a crisis."
Kamel, a prominent Saudi businessman and president of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), the main organizer of the three-day international event, confirmed there will be a major focus on housing.
"We selected the topic of housing following a series of workshops that discussed various issues facing the country," Okaz Arabic daily quoted Kamel as saying.
He emphasized the growing trend of people around the world migrating to cities. According to one study, about 70 percent of people will live in cities by 2050. "The government move to construct 500,000 homes and the Cabinet endorsement of the mortgage law will play a big role in solving the country's housing problem," Kamel said.
The third day's sessions of the JEF will focus on "A solid foundation for successful housing" when speakers will discuss topics such as the affordable housing challenge; the role of government in delivering housing; solid foundations for effective private sector engagement; and enabling private sector innovation in housing finance.
Kamel said the JEF is second only to the Davos Economic Forum. "The JCCI will organize the forum every year without fail," Kamel said, while highlighting the forum's importance in boosting the Kingdom's economy.
Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Economy and Planning Minister Muhammad Al-Jasser, Housing Minister Shuwaish Al-Duwaihi and SAMA Gov. Fahd Al-Mubarak will address the forum.
Other keynote speakers will be Kamel, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, French Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg, Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan, and Ireland's Minister of Housing and Planning Jan O'Sullivan.
Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal will have an open interaction with youths during the forum's last session. The first session will focus on "The economic foundation of a competitive city" while the second session will deal with the topic "Cities as attractive environments."
"Sustainable future cities: making the most of technology," is the topic of the third session. Session four will discuss the topic "Developing the organizational framework to make the ideal Saudi city."
Kamel stressed the JEF's impact on the decision-making process. "Last year when a young man proposed the formation of a business incubator for projects of young businessmen and women, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal ordered the immediate implementation of the proposal. Labor Minister Adel Fakeih also agreed to implement one proposal with immediate effect," he pointed out.
Since its formation in 2000, the JEF has hosted 24,000 delegates from 60 countries across the world and 600 speakers from 40 countries including 23 heads of state.
The JCCI president spoke about his chamber's efforts to improve services to businessmen and women in the city, improve its investment climate and strengthen partnerships between the private and public sectors. "We also want to develop industrial investment in the city and the JCCI's financial resources," Kamel added.