JEDDAH: Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were a pillar of Saudi Arabia’s economy, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance Tariq Al-Shohaib told an investment forum organized by the Eastern Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Al-Shohaib’s comments came during a panel discussion on “The Role of Financial Policies, Regulations and Programs in support of Venture Capital Investments” held as part of the Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises Forum and Exhibition 2018, under the patronage of Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz.
The forum was held at the chamber’s headquarters in cooperation with the Eastern Region under the theme of “Bold Capital Portal for Empowerment.”
During the discussion session, Al-Shohaib highlighted the importance of SMEs within the private sector, and described their contribution as a “key pillar for the national economy and GDP.”
SMEs were a key partner in the national development and the private sector, and were supported and empowered by the government, represented by the Ministry of Finance, he said.
Stimulus packages of up to SR200 billion ($53 billion) had been put in place until 2020 under the Fiscal Balance Program, one of the central initiatives for realizing the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms.
A privatization program also encouraged the private sector to own or manage state-owned assets and to take over public services currently provided directly by the government.
Other government initiatives to strengthen the private sector included the national industrial development program, logistics for industry development, and boosting local content in sectors such as renewable energy, military industries, exports and mining, Al-Shohaib said.
“These programs will help the Kingdom to become an industrial and logistics platform on three continents, and will create jobs for citizens,” he said.
Al-Shohaib said that support was not limited to initiatives and programs, but extended to digital systems and services, such as the new government procurement and competition system.
The system, which is subject to review and endorsement, gives priority to local content and SMEs by providing a mandatory proportion of the value of the contract. A digital financial platform, Etimad, gives SMEs the chance to take part in competition and procurement, and increases transparency and consolidates procedures.
Al-Shohaib said the Ministry of Finance supported government agencies through budgets and allocation of funds for projects to help implement Saudi Vision 2030 initiatives and projects.
A local lending program supported Vision 2030 by providing funding for the private sector and encouraging investment in service projects throughout the Kingdom.
Since the start of the program, more than 700 development projects worth SR11 billion has been financed.
The Small and Medium Enterprises Forum and Exhibition 2018 attracted specialists, economists, investors and interested observers, and offered those working in the SME sector an insight into venture capital funding of investments in the field.