An effective social protection system that empowers Saudi Arabia’s most vulnerable communities, that is led by the government and is supported by all sectors, will be key to creating an inclusive, sustainable society. That was the message from a roundtable meeting held between King Khalid Foundation and officials from three government ministries that took place on Monday.

Attending the event were HRH Princess Banderi bint Abdulrahman Al Faisal, CEO of King Khalid Foundation, HE Deputy Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Development Dr Tamadr Bint Yousif Al Ramah, Advisor to the Minister of Finance and Deputy Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency Abdulaziz Bin Saleh Al-Freih, and Deputy Chairman of Olayan Financial Group Lubna Al-Olayan.

Key points of discussion included the challenges of designing effective social protection interventions and measuring their impact, and the role of the civil and private sectors in amplifying government efforts to end poverty and promote wellbeing.

Building a social and economic system that meets the needs of society will be key to achieving the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, said Princess Banderi, which calls for a safe and healthy life for all Saudi people. Nonprofit organisations are active in supporting disadvantaged communities, but increased support from the private sector would help grow the scale of these programmes, she added.

Princess Banderi noted that accurate measurement of poverty levels, and the impact of social protection initiatives, will be key to ensure welfare support is delivered where it is needed.

The meeting also learned that King Khalid Foundation intends to provide training to teach nonprofit organisations how to track and measure the impact of their social protection activities, in order to scale effective interventions across the country.

Deputy Minister Of Labour and Social Development Tamadr Al Ramah noted that the agency planned to create a specific body to oversee the nonprofit sector, which will help to streamline the work of the organisations working underneath it, and strengthen their impact. The ministry also has existing initiatives which have been implemented in partnership with the private sector, and reflect the value of cross-sector engagements.

“These partnerships help to ensure we reach our goals faster,” she said.

Addressing the issue of social funding, Al Ramah said the goal was not to shrink or grow the subsidies given, but to learn how best to disburse funding to ensure it reached needy communities. This required a comprehensive survey of beneficiaries to understand the impact of existing programmes, and identify any gaps.

Lubna Al Olayan, Deputy Chairman and CEO of Olayan Finance and Chairwoman of the Suliman S. Olayan Foundation, discussed the need for private sector companies to become more socially responsible.

“At a certain stage of success, companies must give back to and serve this community to which they belong,” she said.

The private sector also has a role to play in encouraging the government to ease the regulatory restrictions on nonprofit organisations, to align more with the environment seen in other development countries, she noted. This would support the growth of more community-focused initiatives.

Deputy Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al Ibrahim said enabling the third sector is a focus for the Ministry, and that dialogue between the nonprofit, private and government sectors is necessary for an effective social protection framework.

On the subject of fiscal regulations, the advisor to the Minister of Finance and Deputy Governor of SAMA, Abdulaziz Al Freih noted the need for close monitoring of charitable funding. Nonprofits that can demonstrate adequate financial governance and transparency can secure access to all mainstream financial services, including the capacity to transfer funds and access credit, he told the meeting.

Saudi banks have made significant progress in curbing money laundering operations and in the control and disbursement of funds for charities, he noted, and the industry has worked closely with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development to ensure nonprofits are supported.

He reiterated the importance, amid a changing economic climate, of establishing a national poverty line in order to ensure social support is well targeted, and to offset the effects of inflation on citizens.