Minister of Finance and National Economy Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf yesterday addressed the biannual joint monetary and financial meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and stressed that the government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz is maintaining its expedient economic policies. Saudi Arabia, he said, "will continue to implement the necessary structural reforms that aim at enhancing the potential of the Saudi economy to support the Kingdom's ambitious national development programs and to respond positively to the emerging global economic and financial developments."
Dr. Al-Assaf went on to say that the continuing stable performance of the Saudi economy "reflects improvement in the financial situation and the foreign account, and an increase in the contribution of the non-oil sectors". He cited the adjusted economic indicators for the year 2000 as showing economic growth of 21.3 percent under current prices. This compares with the 15.48 estimated in the annual budget statement. He added that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has now reached SR 649 billion [U.S. $ 173.97 billion].
"Moreover," he said, "the strong performance of the Saudi economy not only reflects developments in the oil markets, but also the noticeable progress in creating a conducive environment for the private sector to continue its pioneering role in the process of diversifying the productive base." In this context, he reported a 7.85 percent annual growth in the non-oil industrial sector.
Dr. Al-Assaf noted that efforts towards strengthening the supervisory, organizing and monitoring role of the government sector would continue in conformity with the Kingdom's current economic growth, and referred to the regulations that have been endorsed by the government over the last two years. In this context, he referred to the procedures for stock market regulations, and added that the government is also studying regulations on taxation.
In his speech, Dr. Al-Assaf discussed a number of other economic and financial topics at the international level, such as the importance of eliminating the existing restrictions on trade, and the role of the private sector in preventing abuses in the international economic order. In the latter issue, he stressed that Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to endorse measures against money-laundering operations.
While in Washington DC, the Saudi delegation met with a number of U.S. officials. Today, Dr. Al-Assaf met with U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill. On Friday, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi met with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and with U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham.