JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will spend more than $100 billion to establish 16 nuclear energy plants in different parts of the country within the next few years, Commerce and Industry Minister Abdullah Zainal Alireza told a Saudi-US business forum in Atlanta.
He made this comment while talking about the Kingdom’s efforts to develop solar and other renewable energy technologies to reduce dependence on oil and gas.”We have allocated $3 billion to produce solar energy panels in Jubail and Yanbu,” he added.Alireza said Saudi imports from the US are expected to cross $95 billion or 23 percent of the total US exports to Arab countries by 2012.”This amount is expected to double by 2015,” the minister said while highlighting the significance of Saudi Arabia as a big market in the Middle East.
“This goes in line with President Barack Obama’s initiative for increasing US exports and creating 2 million new jobs for the Americans,” he added.Alireza emphasized the strong, historic relations between Saudi Arabia and the US and hoped the Atlanta forum would contribute to strengthening the Saudi-US partnership. The US received 95 percent of the total Saudi exports to North America valued at SR124.68 billion in 2010, a statistical report issued by the Ministry of Economy and Planning said.”Saudi Arabia and the US should complement one another and integrate their strong points to build a value-added relationship,” the minister said.
“There are good prospects to expand these relations covering all economic sectors with the support of the two leaderships,” he added.Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah led an impressive 250-member Saudi delegation to the forum, including government officials and business leaders.The forum, which concluded on Wednesday, discussed new investment opportunities worth $385 billion in the Kingdom in the key sectors of education, energy, electricity and water, transport and logistics, petrochemicals and infrastructure.
In his keynote address, Alireza said Saudi-US relations are based on mutual values and respect.He emphasized the need to develop an institutional cooperation to take bilateral ties to new heights.He underscored Saudi Arabia’s position as the largest economy in the Middle East and a key member of the G-20.Massive public investment, rapid private-sector growth and new sector initiatives are driving an expansion projected to offer more than $1 trillion in trade and investment opportunities over the next decade.
He said the economic and judicial reforms introduced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah were instrumental in boosting the Kingdom’s economy and attracting foreign investment. According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2012: Doing Business in a More Transparent World” report released in October 2011, Saudi Arabia ranked as the 12th most business-friendly country out of 183 economies worldwide and led the Middle East region on the list.The commerce and industry minister underscored Saudi Arabia’s strong economic and financial position. “The Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 4.1 percent in 2010 and the GDP growth rate in 2011 is expected to reach 6.5 percent.”
Speaking about the ninth Five-Year Development Plan, which has earmarked a budget of $385 billion, he said the projects mentioned in the strategy would be financed by the national revenue. He also spoke about the growing role of the private sector, saying it contributes 48 percent of GDP.”The present five-year plan aims to achieve a private sector growth of 6 percent,” he said, adding the private sector would become a major driving force for the Kingdom’s economy.
The minister also referred to the Kingdom’s diversification drive to reduce dependence on oil revenue. “We are now focusing on value-added products such as plastics and petrochemicals,” he said. There are about 80 new petrochemical projects in the Kingdom, which would be completed by 2015. He described the Kingdom’s housing sector as one of the largest in the Middle East, adding that $66 billion would be invested to construct 500,000 new homes. – Arabnews