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Saudi reassures ‘financial health’ at Manama Dialogue conference

The top diplomat denied that Saudi Arabia was financially hurting during a period of low oil prices

Ismaeel Naar

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said that his country has “no doubt that the financial health of the kingdom will remain strong as it has been” despite a world low in oil prices.

“We have a debt to GDP ratio of somewhere around 12 percent, which is the lowest by far of all the G20 countries… We have great infrastructure, very professional enterprises, attractive laws for foreign investments and we see this in how many outside investors come into the kingdom,” he said.

Jubeir was speaking during a panel discussion at the 11th Manama Dialogue in Bahrain that focused on the political, security and economic questions of the region.

The top diplomat denied that Saudi Arabia was financially hurting after a question was posed to him regarding deficits the kingdom is projected to incur by end of year.

Transparency

He said that the country will be able to manage moving forward after an order by King Salman to streamline economic processes in the country through the setting up of the Economic and Development Council in late January.

“The countries of the GCC have come to the realization long time ago that free market economies, unleashing to potential of our youths and our business communities by streamlining regulations and reducing the role of government in is the key to economic growth the – and by extension ensuring the prosperity of stability and security,” the foreign minister said.

The council, he said, was first initiated after King Salman’s ascension to the throne and was mainly put in place to look up new investment areas, managing the kingdom’s financial reserves and making up spending decisions more transparent.

Defense strategies unchanged

“All these areas are going to be doing two things: on the one hand, reducing spending by reducing the costs that the government bares,” said Jubeir.

“All of these changes were being fought through even before the collapse of oil [prices]. It’s the right thing to do.”

When asked how the economic deficits this year will hurt Saudi Arabia’s defense and foreign affairs strategies, he said: “Very little.”

“This is because defense is one of the most essential functions of the government. We are facing many challenges and we have to ensure that we are capable of confronting those challenges.”