US embassy cable - 09JEDDAH29

MORE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT JEDDAH ECONOMIC FORUM

Identifier: 09JEDDAH29
Wikileaks: View 09JEDDAH29 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Jeddah
Created: 2009-01-23 15:51:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: ECON PGOV KWBG SOCI SA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO3780
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHJI #0029 0231551
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231551Z JAN 09
FM AMCONSUL JEDDAH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1123
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 8210
C O N F I D E N T I A L JEDDAH 000029 
 
SIPDIS 
 
RIYADH PLEASE PASS TO DHAHRAN; DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND 
NEA/IPA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2014 
TAGS: ECON, PGOV, KWBG, SOCI, SA 
SUBJECT: MORE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT JEDDAH ECONOMIC FORUM 
 
REF: A. A) JEDDAH 0013 
     B. B) JEDDAH 0020 
 
Classified By: CG Martin R. Quinn for reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
 
1.  (C) Summary. A Saudi businessman/intellectual claims that 
losses at last year's Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) totalling 7 
million dollars constitute the primary reason for JEF's 
cancellation.  Other reasons include management and 
organizational problems, making it uncertain that the JEF 
will be rescheduled later this spring as some sources have 
indicated.  End summary. 
 
2.  (C) Waleed Al Banawa, US-educated businessman and 
intellectual, chairman of the Next Generation Conference, 
recently held in Jordan, and well-connected to members of the 
Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and planners 
of the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF), believes that the Forum's 
cancellation is due primarily to losses totalling some 7 
million dollars at last year's JEF.  He cited the fact that 
the licensing authority for the conference had moved to 
Riyadh as well as official SAG reluctance to host the event 
due to "social concerns."  An awkward feature of last year's 
JEF, from the conservative Islamic point of view, included 
"observed commingling of the sexes" (Ref B).  Banawa went on 
to critique the purpose and outcome of JEF, specifically 
pointing out that bringing celebrity speakers like Gorbachev 
made little sense.  Banawa slammed the JEF organization as 
"directionless" and "a waste of money," raising concern over 
speakers and the mission to the organizers.  (Another Saudi 
contact reported that the JEF planners, flailing about, had 
even considered inviting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.) 
Doubts were also expressed about the wisdom of holding the 
conference in the midst of the global economic crisis. 
Banawa did not see the situation in Gaza as a precipitating 
reason and did not expect that the event would be rescheduled 
this year, but would remain, in effect, cancelled for 2009. 
 
3. (C) On January 20 a previous director of JEF informed 
Poloff that JEF has been suffering from major management 
problems and was simply unprepared for the scope and scale of 
the much larger 10th anniversary event. He claimed that some 
of the other speculative reasons for cancellation are true, 
but that management issues are paramount.  He said the forum 
was losing significant money, but that the powerful public 
image that the conference created for Saudi Arabia is well 
worth these losses.  He did not expect the conference to be 
rescheduled this spring, but thought it might return next 
year, in 2010, in a wholly revised format. 
 
4.  (C) Comment: Although Gaza may have provided a convenient 
pretext for JEF organizers to cancel or postpone the February 
event (while citing "delay in getting official permission"), 
other factors now seem more prominent.  The future of the 
Jeddah Economic Forum remains uncertain. End comment. 
QUINN 

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