Sunday, July 27, 2003

Why Invest Here?

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi •

The problem of tourism in our country is similar to the investment problem, namely that we are not yet convinced that we are in real need of it.
And we still have to be convinced that those who manage and encourage these activities need to change their conventions, systems and methods.
How is it that an investor bringing huge capital to establish a large tourism project, after getting all the necessary licenses and passing through a marathon of boring procedures, can then find out that some anonymous individual has canceled the project on the day it was supposed to open?
Is it acceptable that, after a company builds a complete tourism city on land granted by the government, the Ministry of Finance can then come along and object to it, throwing the whole project sideways?
One hears many other stories that are equally shocking.
An investor put his own money along with that of partner in land he bought, and then suddenly discovered that the agreement had been canceled and the price he was being charged had increased.
Another built a residential compound, then discovered that the contract was altered — just after the building was complete and the houses were ready for occupancy.
A third established a factory for the production of medicine, then had to come to terms with the instruction that he had to pay customs on imported components despite the fact officially there is no customs’ duty on medicine.
A Turkish investor decided to invest SR70 million by establishing a large factory but got so bogged down in bureaucracy for a year that he ended up out of sheer frustration canceling everything.
One of our tired and bored investors told me about a trip he had made to Dubai. At that time, he didn’t have any investment project in mind. As soon as those responsible for developing investment activities heard of his arrival, they rushed to him and offered him many proposals and ideas with attractive facilities.
After choosing a project, he asked them about their conditions. They replied: “You tell us yours.”
Before he had chance to ask about the paperwork, the license was sent to his hotel — the very next day.
Many other investors have gone elsewhere because they have faced intolerable obstacles here.
Without supporting and encouraging investors and introducing laws to protect them, we can hardly blame foreigners for not being enthusiastic about coming here — or criticize locals for investing abroad.

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