SAGIA offers $500bn investment bonanza

DAMMAM: Saudi Arabia offers new investment opportunities worth $500 billion in energy, transport and industrial projects, Amr Al-Dabbagh, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, (SAGIA) announced here on Tuesday.Speaking to businessmen at Asharqia Chamber, he said the Ministry of Finance has been giving tax exemption incentives to investors in underdeveloped regions of the Kingdom to woo investment and achieve balanced development of regions.“These incentives are aimed at increasing investment projects in underdeveloped areas such as Jazan and the Northern Border Province,” he said. Al-Dabbagh also disclosed plans to establish new international economic cities in the Kingdom.He, however, said there is no plan at the moment to establish the Kingdom’s fifth economic city in the Eastern Province. The government has established four economic cities in Rabigh, Madinah, Hail and Jazan.“Our goal is to make Saudi Arabia one of the top 10 countries in the world in 2010 in terms of competitive investment climate by providing a healthy investment condition and establishing a knowledge-based society,” the SAGIA chief said.The World Bank declared Saudi Arabia the 13th most competitive country in the world in its annual Doing Business report for 2009, thus ensuring the Kingdom is well poised to achieve its goal of becoming one of the top 10 most competitive countries by 2010.

For the fifth consecutive year, the report ranks Saudi Arabia as the best place to do business in the entire Middle East and Arab world, ahead of Bahrain (20th), the UAE (33rd) and Qatar (39th). The report also ranks Saudi Arabia ahead of advanced economies such as Japan, Germany, France, and Switzerland.He said SAGIA has been working to speed up the Kingdom’s economic growth by promoting investments in strong areas such as energy. He said the Saudi share in joint investment projects reached SR574 billion ($153 billion) or 51 percent from a total of SR1.13 trillion ($300 billion). About 101,000 Saudis are working at foreign and joint investment projects, he said, adding they represent 27 percent of total workers. Saudization in national investment projects is at 9.9 percent.

He said the total exports of joint investments reached SR109.8 billion while exports from nonoil Saudi investments totaled SR78.1 billion. Joint and foreign investment projects pay monthly salaries worth SR29.3 billion while their total sales reached SR395 billion. Local purchase of these projects totaled SR225 billion.SAGIA issued 7,418 commercial registrations (CRs) until June 2010, adding that they accounted for only 0.9 percent of the total CRs issued by the Commerce and Industry Ministry (821,644).He said SAGIA would provide full support to local investors and develop their activities. “Our efforts to attract foreign investment are aimed at strengthening the position of local investors,” he added.

Al-Dabbagh said steps are being taken to improve the Kingdom’s position in the world energy market. “Although as the capital of world oil we are not the capital of world energy,” he pointed out. He emphasized the need to focus on export industries aiming a market of 250 million consumers in neighboring countries.“Saudi Arabia has been able to receive more foreign investments thanks to its economic reforms,” he said. “If an investor does not receive license within 30 days after presenting application, he has the right to lodge a complaint against SAGIA at the Court of Grievances,” he said.

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, chairman of Asharqia Chamber, said a number of proposals would be presented to SAGIA to solve the problems facing Saudi investors. “Lack of finance is one of the major problems and this will slow down economic activities,” he added. He also blamed bureaucratic practices for the delay of projects. He stressed the need for extending more incentives to Saudi investors to avoid a flight of funds – Arabnews