Russia fund boss sees no drop in foreign investment to Saudi Arabia

Kirill Dmitriev said FII is a great platform to drive opportunities and transformation. (SPA)
Updated 23 October 2018

Russia fund boss sees no drop in foreign investment to Saudi Arabia

  • We believe Saudi Arabia has a lot of investment potential and supports the process of transformative and historical reforms in the Kingdom, said Dmitriev
  • From the Russian perception, Saudi Arabia is a great partner, said RDIF’s head

RIYADH: The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) believes that the events of the past few weeks have made little impact on Saudi Arabia’s attractiveness to global investors, and is preparing to invest “billions of dollars” in the Kingdom.

Kirill Dmitriev, the RDIF chief executive, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh that the event was a big success and “a great platform to drive opportunities and transformation.”

He added that the FII’s opening day had been well attended by chief executives from across the Middle East, Europe and the US, with a “big Russian delegation.”

Dmitriev expressed his regrets at the tragedy in Istanbul, in which journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate, and welcomed the actions taken by the Kingdom to investigate the case. 

“It is too early to talk about any kind of shortfall in Western investment in Saudi Arabia, despite the tragic events in Istanbul. The Saudi market is more attractive now than it was three or four years ago, and I don’t think there has been any change over recent weeks,” he said.

“We believe Saudi Arabia has a lot of investment potential and supports the process of transformative and historical reforms in the Kingdom. In particular, we support Vision 2030, which is significant not only for the economy and people of the Kingdom but for the Middle East region and the whole world.”

Earlier at the FII, Dmitriev told a gathering of business executives and policy-makers that the goal of the RDIF was “economic development through partnership.” He said such partnerships include links with Saudi Arabia’s PIF and Aramco, with which RDIF has embarked on a number of initiatives in energy and infrastructure.

Last year, the three established a platform for Russian-Saudi energy investment, which aims to identify attractive investment opportunities in Russia. This was accompanied by a joint platform for technology investment, Dmitriev explained.

“From the Russian perception, Saudi Arabia is a great partner. It is not just about energy and oil, but about the historic vision and transformation,” he said.

RDIF has been actively collaborating with PIF since 2015. They have invested over $2 billion together and are now considering over 10 new projects totaling more than $1 billion, Dmitriev said.

“The industries benefitting from these investments range from sectors including … petrochemicals, industrial manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure and technology,” he added.

“Currently, we are discussing the opportunity to jointly implement some projects in Saudi Arabia in different sectors. The projects are related to the localization of petrochemical production, the provision of service contracts and the subsequent creation of joint ventures. RDIF and our partners can bring billions of dollars of investment to the Kingdom.”

Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019

Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.