Saudi Arabia has recently announced ambitious plans to invest in industries including IT, health care, and tourism in an effort to move away from a dependency on oil and boost growth in the private sector, reported Reuters. Khalid Al-Falih, Chairman of Saudi Aramco, explained that the country was going to shift gears from “simple quantitative growth based on commodity exports to qualitative growth that is evenly distributed” across the economy. The Commerce and Industry Minister, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, said that Saudi Arabia had been a victim of the “Dutch disease,” where easy money from the oil sector crowded out the industrial sector. He added that the government was now working to correct this.
As it stands, Saudi Arabia is suffering from an annual state budget deficit of almost $100b, caused by low oil prices, with $628b held in foreign assets that could be used to finance both the deficit and new investments. The Aramco Chairman added that his company would utilize its educational and vocational training programs to help create the human capital needed for the transformation towards entrepreneurship. Al-Falih further revealed that the government would also begin spending to start industries such as shipbuilding.
In related developments, Trade Arabia reported that Saudi Aramco, the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri), Lamprell Energy, and Hyundai Heavy Industries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a maritime complex in Saudi Arabia. The project will help develop the country’s energy goods and services sector by offering engineering, manufacturing and repair services for offshore rigs, commercial vessels, and offshore service vessels. The project grew out of an expired MoU by Saudi Aramco and Bahri, with an amendment to include the other two companies.