Saudi Arabia to widen scope of privatizations: finance minister

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DUBAI/RIYADH:  Saudi Arabia will look to sell assets in sectors that were not previously considered for privatization, such as healthcare and education, the country’s finance minister said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a Bloomberg event, Mohammed al-Jadaan said privatizations will likely generate north of 50 billion riyals in the next four to five years.

Saudi Arabia is facing a sharp recession this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and low oil prices on state revenues.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast a 6.8% contraction this year. Jadaan did not provide a number, but said he expected the economy to contract less than that.

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July data were promising for the prospects of economic recovery in the kingdom, he said, but the outlook remains uncertain due to the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia tripled its value-added tax to 15% this month as it seeks to bolster state coffers. Jadaan said there was no imminent plan to introduce an income tax, which would require more preparation, but he said nothing could be ruled out.

He added that Saudi Arabia will likely tap international debt investors once again this year, but no decision had been taken yet on the currency of the planned issuance.

Saudi Arabia has raised $12 billion in international bond issues so far this year, and it “significantly” increased its local debt issuance compared with its original plans, the minister said.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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