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SAGIA chief calls for further reforms

At an event to mark the unveiling of SAGIA’s new logo, Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki says progess is being made but that economic reforms should accelerate.

Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki, governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), today called for the country to join the WTO “as soon as possible.”

“For us, it’s very important. It’s another mechanism for plugging the Saudi market into the best around the world,” he said, at an event to mark the unveiling of SAGIA’s new logo.

Prince Abdullah, whose organisation encourages investment in the Saudi economy, claimed that important steps have been taken to make Saudi Arabia more ‘investor friendly.’

Key sectors have recently been opened up to foreign investors, he said, economic reform is underway and new ‘investor service centres’ have been created to provide guidance and advice to businessmen. Since 2000, SAGIA has issued 1,800 investment licenses and the value of the investments is reported to be $13 billion.

The Prince acknowledged a number of challenges that continue to face the Kingdom as it seeks to break away from over reliance on oil. More excluded sectors should be opened to foreign investors, he said, and there needs to be a “change of attitude” in how money is spent.

Pressed on the question of Saudi funds invested abroad in the last thirty years, Prince Abdullah said that money will always to go markets where there is transparency and the widest choice of investment instruments. “There were no investment opportunities to match the funds created,” he said. “When the environment improves, they’ll be coming back.”

Highlighting the need for economic reform in the region, he said that Saudi Arabia’s GDP exceeded that of Spain in 1980, but that Spain’s GDP now exceeds that of all Arab countries.

“The Middle East provides a very important link to [Asia and Africa],” said Prince Abdullah. “Its potential has never been fully realised.”

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