At a meeting of businessmen yesterday organized by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General praised the close cooperation that exists between the State and the private sector in implementing economic and social projects. The Kingdom, he said, has been adopting a series of policies and programs that aim at broadening its economic base, diversifying its sources of income, developing human resources and enabling the Saudi economy to keep up with developments.
Prince Sultan went on to state that the Gross National Product (GNP) increased from only SR 16.6 billion in 1969 to around SR 525 billion in 1999. During the same period, the GNP for the private sector rose from about SR 5.3 billion to over SR 220 billion. He reiterated the Kingdom's determination to boost the tourism industry and extend to it the necessary incentives so as to attract private sector investment in this promising sphere.
Answering questions, Prince Sultan gave assurances that Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) was well on the way to privatization, and that an announcement would be made in two months. As for the new tax regulations for foreign investment and whether there will be tax exemption for those investing under the previous regulations, Prince Sultan said that this is under active consideration by the Higher Economic Council (HEC). To a query on a national scheme to regulate the Internet, electronic trade, and information technology, he declared that the government is open to suggestions on this matter. Commenting on the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, he expressed satisfaction, saying: "We are all pleased at anything that is for the well-being of Lebanon." He confirmed that the Kingdom's position has always been in support of the Arab and Muslim worlds.