Saudi Arabia will need to invest 300 billion riyals ($80 billion) in the water sector over the next 40 years, experts said in a report published on Saturday, February 17. Adil Bushnak, quoted in the daily Arab News, called for the Gulf desert kingdom to speed up the planned privatization of the water sector.
The country, which relies heavily on desalination, consumes three to eight times more than the amounts available from renewable sources, said Bushnak, an advisor to the Supreme Economic Council headed by Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
He said the government was recovering less three percent of the actual costs of providing water and sewage services, mainly due to low tariffs, flawed collection and loss from the mains.
Another expert, Akil Khawaji, said privatization of the water sector would curb high consumption rates in Saudi Arabia, create jobs, increase investments and encourage competition.
Saudi agricultural policies could jeopardize the scant resources, said the official of a royal commission for the industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu. "There are no ready-made solutions ... The first step should be the creation of a national water commission to maintain a balance between water security and food security," he said.
In October, the Saudi government set up an electricity and water company for Yanbu and Jubail, ahead of the sector's privatization.
The company, named Marafek, was set up with capital of $666 million and will run the existing installations and supervise projects in the Red Sea city of Yanbu and in Jubail on the Gulf. It will rent installations of the water and electricity department for a fixed period, after which the new company is to own them. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )