Saudi Arabia local industry secured $21 billion in investment in 2021 -minister

Saudi Arabia attracted 81 billion riyal ($21.6 billion) of investments in the industrial sector in 2021 for both the private sector and joint ventures with government entities, the Saudi industry minister said on Monday.

The kingdom has set itself high targets for diversifying its economy and reducing its dependence on oil, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into a plan called Vision 2030 initiated by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The prince’s plan is centred on developing a homegrown industry, but there have been snags and delays as the kingdom has struggled with a lack of skilled labour, bureaucratic hitches and challenges related to costs and technology transfers.

“This industrial sector in general is really growing. I mean, we have seen 2021… We achieved more than 81 billion riyal of new investments coming during the year,” Bandar Al-Khorayef, Saudi Arabia’s Mining and Industry Minister said.

Al-Khorayef spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of the kingdom’s inaugural arms fair, the World Defense Show, as the country hopes to move from being a mostly a weapons importer to a sophisticated manufacturer and exporter.

A series of joint ventures between Saudi firms and top global aerospace and defence manufacturers have been announced in recent years as part of that strategy to localise some industrial capabilities. The minister said many of those partnerships are still being discussed while some were cancelled after review.

“Some just probably didn’t make sense and we have to be realistic,” he said.

“Getting into a joint venture is a big deal, so having a partner specifically of any business takes time … You need to ensure that you choose the right partner because it’s going to be for a long period of time,” he added.

The minister did not say which joint ventures had been cancelled, but he said he wanted the process of localisation in the defence sector to move quicker.

“Definitely, I am not satisfied. You know, we are having high ambitions but manufacturing capabilities do take time,” Al-Khorayef said.

Riyadh plans to invest 12 trillion riyal by 2030 to help refocus the economy away from oil, while giving foreign firms until the end of 2023 to set up headquarters or risk losing out on government contracts as it competes with regional heavyweights, especially the UAE, for foreign capital and talent.

Saudi authorities say much of the plan is still in its initial phase and money will increasingly start pouring into the kingdom over the next few years.

The minister said the kingdom is ready to work with Western companies or others, regardless of their origins, as long as they “share a long-term view” and “have the right technology needed in the kingdom”.

Al-Khorayef said he was not able to comment on the government’s position on doing business with Russian companies as the West imposes sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

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