Saudi education and health sectors to open full foreign ownership

Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
Updated 25 August 2017
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Saudi education and health sectors to open full foreign ownership

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will allow foreign investors to take 100 percent ownership of companies in its health and education sectors, the head of the kingdom’s investment authority told Reuters.
It is the latest move by the country to gradually ease ownership restrictions on foreign firms, which have previously been required to set up a joint venture with a local partner.
“We are opening up education centers to have ownership 100 percent, all types of education even from primary school. This is something new for Saudi,” Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), said.
In the health sector, the ministry will “just be a regulator and not a service provider anymore,” said Omar. This will open up $180 billion of investment opportunities in that sector over the next five years, he said.
He did not say when the relaxation on foreign ownership would come into effect.
The Saudi government, seeking to diversify the economy beyond oil exports amid a slump in oil prices, told Reuters in April that it was launching a privatization program that would raise more than $200 billion.
However, it has not so far clarified foreign ownership and operating rules in many sectors. Many private equity firms and other potential foreign investors say majority or full control of projects is important to allow them to cut costs and improve efficiency.
The government is studying whether to sell off all public hospitals and 200,000 pharmacies, and has begun the process for the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Vice Minister for Economy and Planning Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri said in April.
Meanwhile, the education ministry has hired HSBC as financial adviser for its plans to privatise construction and management of school buildings.
SAGIA’s efforts to ease ownership restrictions for foreign firms in recent years have included opening the wholesale and retail sectors in 2015. This month it announced it would allow full foreign ownership of engineering services companies.


China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

Updated 26 April 2019
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China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

  • Xi says Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption”
  • High costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap”
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping has promised to set high standards for China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative, seeking to dispel complaints the many billion dollars in projects leave developing countries with too much debt.
Xi avoided mentioning debt complaints in a speech opening a forum attended by leaders from some three dozen countries to celebrate his signature foreign initiative. But he said Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption.”
Developing countries welcome the initiative to expand trade by building roads, ports and other facilities across Asia and Africa to Europe. But high costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap.”
The United States, Russia, Japan and India also worry Beijing is trying to build a trade and political network centered on China and expand its strategic influence at their expense.
Xi’s government is trying to revive the initiative’s momentum after the number of new projects plunged last year. That came after Chinese officials said state-owned banks would step up scrutiny of borrowers and some governments complained projects do too little for their economies and might give Beijing too much political sway.
Countries including Malaysia and Thailand have canceled or scaled back projects while Ethiopia and others have renegotiated debt repayment.
Xi noted China’s finance ministry on Thursday issued guidelines for assessing debt risks for borrowers. The ministry said those “debt sustainability guidelines” are based on the standards of the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions.
The president tried to allay complaints about lack of economic benefits and political influence, saying Belt and Road is “not an exclusive club” and promotes “common development and prosperity.”
“We need to pursue open, green and clean cooperation,” Xi said. “Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption.”
His audience at a Beijing conference center included Prime Ministers Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Lee Hsien-Loong of Singapore and Adiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and leaders or envoys from Greece, Serbia and Malaysia.
Xi said Beijing also wants to expand the scope of its initiative by encouraging cooperation among Belt and Road countries on health, water resources, agriculture and science and technology. He promised to fund scholarships for students from Belt and Road countries.