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Karen E. Young

Davos Of the Desert Gets Its Timing Right

For once, Saudi Arabia’s investment showcase will be free of controversy and crisis.

It’s his party, he’ll buy if he wants to.

It’s his party, he’ll buy if he wants to.

Photographer: Eliot Blondet/AFP

The “Davos in the Desert,” as the annual Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh has come to be known, has often been associated with controversy and crisis. As Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s showcase event for investors, this year's event may be a chance for a rebound. Investors are anxious to see clear skies and signs of recovery after a difficult 2020.

The inaugural gathering in 2017 was quickly overshadowed by what the government claimed was a crackdown on corruption, in which the venue of the event, Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, was turned into a prison for hundreds of rich and powerful Saudis. The detentions of many prominent businesspeople inevitably had a chilling effect on foreign direct investment, which fell to a 14-year low in 2017. The following year, the event was haunted by the recent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Spooked by the international outcry, global business leaders stayed away.