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World Bank recognizes Saudi Arabia amongst top 20 most business-friendly countries

Saudi Arabia: Wednesday, September 10 - 2008 @ 16:48

For the second consecutive year, the report ranks Saudi Arabia as the best place to do business in the entire Middle East and Arab World, ahead of Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait. The report also ranks Saudi Arabia ahead of advanced economies such as Germany and Austria.

The World Bank recognized a number of recent reforms which enabled Saudi Arabia to reach the top 20. Improvements to business and property registration procedures made it easier and less costly to start a business and register real estate deeds. Protection of public company investors was enhanced with a series of new laws from the Capital Market Authority and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Port fees were cut by 50%, making it more affordable to trade across borders. Also, strict deadlines were placed on bankruptcy procedures, helping to expedite court proceedings and better protect creditors.

“Today, few obstacles remain for local and foreign investors in Saudi Arabia. We welcome all companies to take part in our growth, to take advantage of the wide range of investment opportunities in the Kingdom,”

said. H.E. Amr Al-Dabbagh, Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and Chairman of the National Competitiveness Center (NCC).

Saudi Arabia has demonstrated notable improvements in the rankings over the last 4 years, leaping from the 67th position in 2004, to 38th in 2006 and to its current position in the top 20. The Kingdom’s exceptional performance has been driven by King Abdullah’s vision to increase the prosperity of the people of Saudi Arabia. The King has been the country’s strongest advocate for modernizing the Saudi business environment. He has sought to encourage domestic and foreign investment in the country by enacting a new foreign investment law, establishing the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), privatizing public companies, and achieving membership in the WTO.

The Governor of SAGIA has since institutionalized efforts to liberalize the country’s economy with the creation of the NCC and the “10 x 10” initiative.

“Under His Majesty the King’s leadership, Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the importance of competitiveness and has set a goal for the Kingdom to become one of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world by 2010,” explained H.E. Amr Al-Dabbagh.

“We monitor diligently our progress towards ‘10 x 10’ using the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index along with the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index and the Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Rankings,”

said Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, Deputy Governor for Investment Affairs, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and President of the National Competitiveness Center (NCC).

“These rankings are a vital reference for governments, international development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to assess national economic conditions; between the three of them we cover over 300 parameters against which our 10 x 10 plan is assessed. Competitiveness is the most comprehensive assessment of a country’s economic strength and ability to yield high returns on investment,” Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad concluded.

The parameter-based reform agenda is having its desired effect. Saudi Arabia has become one of the top recipients of foreign direct investment in the Middle East. Inflows have increased from $2bn to more than $20bn in the last three years. Today, more than 50% of these funds go to non-oil sectors of the economy, collaborating towards economic diversification of the Kingdom.

In order to foster competitiveness in all regions of the Kingdom, SAGIA has already launched four Economic Cities: in Rabigh (King Abdullah Economic City), Hail (Prince AbdulAziz bin Mousaed Economic City), Madinah (Knowledge Economic City) and Jazan (Jazan Economic City). Under the Foreign Investment Act, 100% ownership is granted to foreign investors at its Economic Cities.

Such great achievements have bolstered the government’s resolve to continue the business environment reforms that will make Saudi Arabia one of the 10 most competitive nations of the world. SAGIA and the NCC will play a central role in supporting continued efforts to enhance the Kingdom’s fundamental competitiveness.

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Wednesday, September 10- 2008 @ 16:48 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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