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KSA outlines its New Economy plans

In an exclusive interview with ITP.net, Dr Fawaz Alami, Deputy Minister for Technical Affairs, outlines the steps KSA is taking to join the New Economy

A senior government official has told ITP.net that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is deadly serious about turning itself into a hub for New Economy and knowledge-based industries.

In an exclusive interview, Dr Fawaz Alami, Deputy Minster for Technical Affairs and Head of the Standing Committee on E-commerce, offered an insight into a whole host of initiatives that are underway to make this happen.

“Saudi Arabia is the type of government, and the people are the same, that doesn’t like to publicise everything it is doing,” Dr Alami told ITP.net. “We would like to do things and let the results speak for us. You can see these actions and deeds today.”

Amongst the actions taken are steps by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency to develop PKI and payment systems that will enable secure online commerce. A further development is the decision to invest up to SR 5 billion in a project called Watani that aims to deliver a PC to every student in up to 8000 of the Kingdom’s schools.

E-government is also firmly on the agenda. The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance & National Economy are working on the formulation of a co-ordinated policy for Kingdom-wide e-government. The Ministry of Commerce is also working now on the rules and regulations that will cover e-commerce in the Kingdom.

Saudi Telecommunications is also to play a key part in the Kingdom’s planned transformation. For the first time by a senior official, Dr Alami indicated that privatisation of STC may even be a possibility when the time is right.

“[STC] needs time to move from government establishment to ‘corporatisation’ to commercialisation and then privatisation, and these steps will need time,” said Dr Alami. “I believe that one day in the future we will see the opening up of telecommunications services in Saudi Arabia. We do not know when this is going to take place, I believe STC will know [when the time is right.] We feel that once it opens up, efficiency will increase, the consumer will benefit and ultimately e-commerce will thrive.”

Echoing comments made recently by HRH Crown Prince Abdullah, KSA’s business community is also being urged to repatriate money to support the Kingdom’s New Economy initiatives.

“I hope businessmen will realise they should repatriate their cash back into this country to capitalise on the competitive advantages that this country has," said Dr Alami. “...and I hope they will realise that they’ve lost a lot in the downturn of the NASDAQ.”

Had those businessmen kept the money invested in the Kingdom, Dr Alami feels that they could have been far better off. “I don’t think we’ve had losses in Saudi Arabia comparable to what has happened in the last year,” he said.

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