UAE and Saudi jump up the rankings for foreign investors

Influential index places the UAE in eighth place globally and Saudi Arabia at No. 14

Businessmen stroll in front of a Saudi pavilion promoting the Neom project at the MIPIM Fair, one of the world's largest real estate exhibitions, in Cannes. (Photo: Getty Images)

The UAE and Saudi Arabia made big jumps this year in an influential ranking of the world’s most desirable places for foreign investors to put their money.

Kearney’s 2024 Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index placed the UAE in eighth place globally and Saudi Arabia at No. 14, both rising 10 spots from 2023. 

The ranking augurs well for Saudi Arabia in particular – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has set an ambitious target to attract $100 billion in foreign investment within the next six years to pull off the massive economic transformation plans dubbed Vision 2030.

Gaining traction with outside financiers is crucial as the Public Investment Fund is currently the largest backer of Saudi mega-projects spanning from NEOM to Downtown Riyadh.

Despite progress, analysts remain skeptical the kingdom can hit its 2030 deadline and financing needs will continue to be met by the PIF, according to Bloomberg

“It’s effectively still a public sector-led development model,” Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, told Bloomberg in an interview.

“At the moment they’re using all their pockets of strength for this transformation plan and I think going forward it will still be predominantly a Saudi-led development plan.”

Growing cash needs at home will have knock-on effects to how the PIF chooses to spend abroad, analysts predict.