Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—New authority for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to establish companies will boost its investments both inside and outside the Kingdom, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said on Tuesday.
Assaf told Asharq Al-Awsat that a new cabinet decision decree giving the fund’s board of directors authority to set up companies without cabinet approval will both make it more efficient, as well as boosting important sectors of the national economy.
“With the new decree, the Fund will be able to act with more flexibility, which will help it implement its new investment initiatives more effectively,” he said.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Assaf said that the fund has recently launched new ventures in the petrochemical and hi-tech sectors, in addition to other ventures aimed at strengthening the national economy.
He said seeking cabinet approval for every decision by the public investment fund had proven to be too cumbersome.
“A number of ministers concerned with economic and legal affairs sit on the fund’s board of directors, including the ministers of finance, trade and industry, and economy and planning, along with Muttlab Al-Nafisah, minister of state and member of the Council of Ministers. With the new decree, the fund will be able to perform its roles more flexibly which will help it implement its new investment initiatives in a better manner,” Assaf said.
In a statement, Public Investment Fund secretary-general Abdul Rahman Al-Mufdhi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Fund was poised to begin focusing investment in three “fundamental” sectors: housing finance, renewable energy and information technology.
In addition to these three priority sectors, Mufdhi said that the fund would continue to support individual initiatives in telecoms, aerospace, energy, green technologies and security, in partnership with firms at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Kingdom’s universities and research centers.
“We will seek in the next stage to transfer technologies into the Kingdom. We have created a strategic company [for this], and will embark upon its executive program soon,” Mufdhi said.
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia set up the Saudi Arabian Company for Industrial Investment, which was approved by the Saudi Council of Ministers with capital of two billion riyals (533 million US dollars). The new company is a joint venture between the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Aramco and the Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), three of the most important economic institutions in the Kingdom.
In an exclusive statement to Asharq Al-Awsat at the time, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said this company would be the most important industrial investment arm of the Saudi economy, particularly in the sectors where the Kingdom has a relative advantage.
“This company will be the investment arm of three important institutions in the country, which have ambitions to expand significantly in strategic sectors, most prominently including the petrochemical and oil industries. This will serve industry in general in Saudi Arabia,” Assaf said.
Since its founding in 1971, the Public Investment Fund has played a leading role in the development of the Saudi economy and has financed a number of “megaprojects” in the Kingdom, both on behalf of that state and in partnership with the private sector. The fund also manages the government’s stake in a number of corporations.