The Saudi cabinet Monday approved the country's seventh five-year economic development plan running till 2005, which predicts a 3.16 percent annual growth rate in gross domestic product (GDP), the official SPA agency reported.
The plan expects annual growth of 4.01 percent in the non-oil sector, whose proportion of GDP would rise to 71.6 percent by the end of 2005, against 68.4 percent last year, according to a report published by SPA.
The private sector should see annual growth of nearly 5.04 percent, thanks to the support of the Saudi government, it said.
"The Saudi kingdom is working to encourage the private sector in such a way as to allow it to take part in development projects to diversify the national economy," the report continued.
In April, a new law aimed at attracting foreign capital came into effect in Saudi Arabia. It gives foreigners the right to own 100 percent of industrial companies, while previously they could only hold 49 percent of companies established in the country.
According to the report, private sector investment over the next five years will total $127.6 billion, accounting for 71.2 percent of the amount that should be invested in projects in Saudi Arabia.
The five-year plan should also Saudis 817,300 jobs, moving their share of the work force to 53.2 percent in 2004, against 44.2 percent in 1999.
The Saudi government in July created a special fund to develop human resources and find jobs in the private sector for the national workforce.
The Saudi plan includes the construction over the next five years of 12 desalination plants with a total capacity of 2.1 billion cubic metres of water per day.
The construction of three other desalination plants, with a total capacity of 826,000 cubic metres per day is underway and they should be operational soon, the report said.
Finally, the five-year plan aims to "improve the balance of payments, to diversify revenues and increase private and public investment," the report said.
Saudi Arabia want to develop its private sector to enable its economic development to be less tied to the fluctuation of the price of crude oil, which is the government's main source of earnings. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )