Al-Assaf: Kingdom weathered global economic crisis successfully
Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf inaugurates the Saudi Economic Forum at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh on Tuesday
Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said Tuesday that recent allocations made by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah following his return to the Kingdom has enhanced private sector participation and helped people in various sectors.
The minister was inaugurating the Saudi Economic Forum (SEF) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh on Tuesday.
The major event, which is organized by Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group in cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Finance, is meant to establish a platform for debating strategic economic issues.
More than 1,000 government, banking and business leaders from more than 30 countries took part in the forum. The minister also inaugurated an exhibition on the sidelines of the forum.
"We have released the funds today for the new allocations to the concerned sectors for immediate implementation," the minister said. Around $37 billion have been allocated for several social and economic reforms in the Kingdom.
"The Kingdom approved an investment expenditure of SR256 billion in its budget for the year 2011. We will exceed this sum by a large amount due to the king's recent recommendations, which includes the granting of 20,000 loans to construct 24,000 housing units in the Kingdom at the cost of SR6 billion," the minister said, adding that the supplementary votes increased the capital of the Real Estate Development Fund to SR40 billion.
The minister said the Kingdom would invest SR1.44 trillion in the implementation of its development plans for the ninth five-year program till 2014.
Al-Assaf hoped that the delegates of the forum would largely benefit from an exchange of international experiences.
Talking to reporters following the inauguration, the minister said there is no adverse impact on the Kingdom's economy as a result of the ongoing political turmoil in some countries in the region.
Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Gov. Muhammad Al-Jasser said the Kingdom's monetary policy has contributed positively to attracting local and foreign investments and it also boosted a steady growth in the banking and financial sectors in the Kingdom.
"The total assets of the commercial banks in the Kingdom were only SR150 million in the mid 80’s. Now they have risen to SR1.4 trillion in 2010."
Al-Jasser said inflation reached 11.1 percent in 2008, which was the peak at the time, and it declined to 3.5 percent in October 2009 and rebounded to 5.3 percent in 2010.
SAMA has given strict guidelines for the financial structure of banks, which includes internal administration, accounts and control over funds,” he added.
The governor said that the insurance sector has witnessed a rapid growth since the establishment of the Saudi Arabian Cooperative Insurance Company in 2003.
The gross premiums reached SR16.41 billion at the end of last year, up by 12.4 percent from the previous year. "There are 30 licensed insurance companies in the Kingdom."
Faisal Abou Zaki, vice president of Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal said the integrated economic plans of the Kingdom reflects its long-term vision, which lays top priority on expanding and modernizing the basic infrastructure and social development of the country.
"One major consequence of the global financial crisis was to turn the world’s attention to the case of many developing countries including Saudi Arabia as a noteworthy case study on sound economic policies and prudent financial and monetary management.
"The world economic gurus and advocates of blanket globalization are opening their eyes to a different reality. They are now keen to revisit the Saudi economic experience and see how this country, which was deemed to be too prudent and cautious in adopting open door policies, has managed to ride out the crisis when large economies have verged on financial collapse and had to put up extraordinary measures to try to salvage their economies."