As leader of the Saudi delegation to the meeting in Beirut of the Asian Group-77, Minister
of Commerce Osama Bin Jaafar Faqih affirmed that the Kingdom had not abandoned its support
of the developing countries to which it has been providing help for over three decades. He
reminded the meeting that Saudi Arabia had written off a total of U.S. $ 6 billion in debt
for these countries.
Referring to the economic crisis in East Asia that started about two years ago, he said
there had been negative effects on a number of countries, and Saudi Arabia was not isolated
from these effects. Prices of raw materials, notably petroleum, fell as a result of the
drop in demand because of the recession. Minister Faqih expressed the hope for radical
changes in the structure of the international financial system to allow for better
mechanisms for privatization, risk management, organizing the financial sector, and
developing acceptable criteria worldwide. He urged developing countries to enhance their
productive structures, and set up a rational climate for the activation of the mechanisms
of the free market economy, giving the private sector the opportunity to play a meaningful
role, maintaining economic stability, and intensifying efforts for transfer of technology.
He also called upon the member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate
the process for countries intending to join.
Referring to the Kingdom's Seventh Five-Year Development Plan (2000-2004), he said its
strategic objectives continue to concentrate on three major areas: developing the nation's
manpower and increasing job opportunities; upgrading economic efficiency in both government
and private sectors; and promoting greater participation of the private sector in the
nation's economy. The results of implementing this ongoing policy have been that the
contribution of the private sector to the non-oil GDP rose to 55 percent in 1998,
reflecting the government's efforts to expand the economic base, diversify sources of
income, and develop the private sector's capability.