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Saudi growth highlighted despite challenges | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Speakers are seen at the podium during the Euromoney Conference in Riyadh May 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

Speakers are seen at the podium during the Euromoney Conference in Riyadh May 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

Speakers are seen at the podium during the Euromoney Conference in Riyadh May 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The 8th Saudi Arabian Euromoney Conference drew to a close on Wednesday after two days of talks between major international financial players on the competitiveness of the kingdom’s financial system. The conference highlighted national growth and development, while also acknowledging the economic challenges facing the country in the future. It was attended by a number of senior Saudi officials, including Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Housing Minister Dr. Shwaish Al-Duwaihi, and Planning Minister Dr. Muhammad Al-Jasser.

During the conference, Saudi minister of economy and planning Muhammad Al-Jasser identified four key challenges facing Saudi Arabia’s efforts to increase productivity: the multiple constituent components of the job market; the diversity of the economic base; attracting international medium-sized enterprises, particularly from developing countries; and limiting subsidies, particularly fuel subsidies, to people who genuinely require them.

Jasser acknowledged that the subsidy program is an important challenge for the kingdom, particularly due to the high cost of subsidies on the Saudi economy. He added that Saudi Arabia is attempting to address this issue in a prudent, balanced and cautious manner, including via the development of the public transport system.

Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf stressed that the financial, economic and monetary stability Saudi Arabia is experiencing is due the policy of development that the kingdom has actively pursued over the past years. He stressed that these policies have enabled the national economy to achieve a growth rate of approximately 7% over the past year, thanks to the effective performance of the private sector.

He noted that the Fitch Ratings Agency has recently affirmed Saudi Arabia’s sovereign rating of AA–, stressing that the kingdom will continue to strengthen growth and development.

Fitch Ratings had earlier said that Saudi Arabia could see an upgrade in coming months because of progress in handling social stressors and strengthened budget buffers. Fitch also revised Saudi Arabia’s outlook from stable to positive.

Addressing the conference, Housing Minister Dr. Shwaish Al-Duwaihi revealed that Saudi Arabia’s Real Estate Development Fund has provided 800,000 interest-free loans worth a total of SAR 224 billion.

He also noted that the housing minister recently signed an infrastructure project in Riyadh, which will see the construction of nearly 7,000 housing units.

Secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdullatif Al-Zayani, was also in attendance at the conference. He asserted that the GCC is working to achieve the following four strategic goals: defending GCC member states from all political, security and economic threats, supporting and increasing economic growth, achieving high levels of human development, and ensuring that GCC member states address and recover from all crises and risks.