Foreign investment in KSA doubles in vote of confidence for reforms

Economy and planning minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri at a forum in Riyadh a day after the 2019 budget was announced. (SPA)
Updated 20 December 2018

Foreign investment in KSA doubles in vote of confidence for reforms

  • Five sectors of the economy are prepared for privatisation in the first quarter of 2019
  • Ministers attend forum a day after the 2019 budget was announced

RIYADH: Foreign investment in Saudi Arabia more than doubled in 2018 to reach $3.5 billion, the economy and planning minister said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri said the value of investments rose 110 percent from the previous year. 

The minister was speaking a day after the 2019 budget was announced, in which the government said it would boost spending by 7 percent to spur economic growth.

Attracting foreign investment is a key part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil revenues. Sending a message of reassurance to private-sector firms looking for business in the Kingdom, Al-Tuwaijri said that historical overdue payments owed by the government to contractors would be settled “within months.”

The crash in oil prices from mid-2014 forced the government to slash some projects and delay payments, while disputes have held up some other settlements.

The vast majority of claims have now been addressed, and Al-Tuwaijri said the rest of the settlements would be made imminently.

“The commitment is there, funding is there, the policymakers are saying ‘please do, please pay, get this out of the way.’ And I think it’s a matter of months before we achieve all of that,” Al-Tuwaijri told Arab News.

Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said at the same conference that the government issued more than 700 licenses for foreign investments this year, double the number in 2017.

Al-Jadaan said that Saudi Arabia has no intention of changing its policy on expatriate worker fees — which could prove a stumbling block to attracting foreign companies.

The levies are due to rise next year as part of a policy to encourage the hiring of Saudi nationals.

The ministers were speaking at a post-budget forum, after Saudi officials unveiled a plan to increase state spending to $295 billion.

Some analysts expressed reservations about the budget’s revenue numbers, and claimed that they were based on over-optimistic forecasts for oil prices. 

Al-Jadaan declined to specify what oil price the Saudi budget is based upon. But he told Arab News that the projections laid out were attainable. “We stress-tested various scenarios on the oil price under the budget, and what we have put is actually a reasonable projection,” Al-Jadaan said. “It is a very realistic budget.”

US to formally seek extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou

Updated 2 min 15 sec ago

US to formally seek extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou

  • Canada’s ambassador to the US did not say when the formal extradition request will be made but the deadline for filing it is Jan. 30
  • Huawei said it has no comment on the ongoing legal proceedings

The United States will proceed with the formal extradition from Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, Canada’s ambassador to the United States told the Globe and Mail, in a move certain to ratchet up tensions with China.
David MacNaughton, in an interview with the Canadian newspaper published on Monday, said the US has told Canada it will request Meng’s extradition, but he did not say when the request will be made. The deadline for filing is Jan. 30, or 60 days after Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at the request of the United States over alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran. She was released on bail last month and is due in court in Vancouver on Feb. 6.
Relations between China and Canada turned frosty after the arrest, with China detaining two Canadian citizens and sentencing to death a Canadian man previously found guilty of drug smuggling.
The Chinese firm, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications equipment, said it had no comment on ongoing legal proceedings when contacted by Reuters on Tuesday. A US Justice Department spokesman said, “We will comment through our filings.”
The Canadian Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.
Canada is one of over 100 countries with which the United States has extradition treaties. Once a formal request is received, a Canadian court must determine within 30 days if there is sufficient evidence to support extradition, and Canada’s Minister of Justice must give a formal order.
In an article published on Monday, a former Canadian spy chief said Canada should ban Huawei from supplying equipment for next-generation telecoms networks, while Canada’s government is studying any security implications.
Some of Canada’s allies such as the United States and Australia have already imposed restrictions on using Huawei equipment, citing the risk of it being used for espionage.
Huawei has repeatedly said such concerns are unfounded, while China’s ambassador to Canada last week said there would be repercussions if Ottawa blocked Huawei.
In Monday’s interview, MacNaughton said he had complained to the United States that Canada was suffering from Chinese revenge for an arrest made at the US’s request.
“We don’t like that it is our citizens who are being punished,” the Globe and Mail cited MacNaughton as saying. “(The Americans) are the ones seeking to have the full force of American law brought against (Ms. Meng) and yet we are the ones who are paying the price. Our citizens are.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said China was arbitrarily using the death penalty and called on world leaders to raise concerns about the detained Canadians.