The Saudi government is seeking to develop special economic zones based on modern and innovative designs, with the aim to attract foreign direct investments and shape the future of regional and global markets.
Ministers, officials, and local and international experts attended the launch of the Saudi Special Economic Zones Investment Forum on Monday, which saw the announcement of new investment deals exceeding 27 billion riyals ($7.2 billion).
Hosted by the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority (ECZA), in partnership with the Saudi Program for Attracting Regional Headquarters of International Companies, the forum witnessed extensive sessions that highlighted Saudi Arabia’s position as a future investment destination and the importance of special economic zones in diversifying the country’s sources of income.
During the event, licenses for the establishment of four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were awarded to the King Abdullah Economic City’ (KAEC) SEZ, Ras Al-Khair SEZ , Jazan SEZ, and Cloud Computing SEZ.
Eng. Khaled Al-Falih, Minister of Investment, said the Saudi government concluded in 2022 deals for the private sector worth 285 billion riyals ($76 billion) in various fields, including cars, information and communication technology, agriculture and space, as well as petrochemicals, mining and renewable energy.
He revealed that the investment sector in Saudi Arabia grew by 31 percent during 2022, to exceed one trillion riyals ($266.6 billion), for the first time in the history of the Kingdom.
The minister underlined that the social, economic and commercial indicators have proven the extent of investor confidence in the Saudi infrastructure. He added that the new special economic zones were designed based on a futuristic and innovative outlook, with a focus on attracting foreign direct investment and maximizing opportunities for major industries.
Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan stated that the economic zones help achieve sustainable development and contribute to attracting investments and generating job opportunities.
He added that the economic cities would benefit from Saudi Arabia’s strategic location to establish new clusters of companies across the main growth sectors, which would contribute in shaping the future of regional and global markets.
According to Al-Jadaan, the special zones target specific investors in certain sectors to reduce competition between the primary economy and the special economic cities.
Bandar AlKhorayef, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, said the private economic zones in Saudi Arabia would greatly benefit the local economy, as they are an important component of economic diversification.
He stressed that the zones would serve re-export products and help create a large commercial movement in the next stage.
AlKhorayef revealed that the private economic zones focus on various industries related to ship manufacturing, mining and renewable energy industries, to promote investments that help expand services and create added value.
Meanwhile, Nabil Khoja, Secretary General of ECZA, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the volume of investments in the special economic zones in the coming period would top 116 billion riyals ($30.9 billion), given the efforts made to achieve the targets set to support the foundations of the Saudi economy.
Khoja predicted an influx of more investments in the coming phase, noting that each economic zone was characterized by qualitative industries and provided a package of incentives and enablers.
The forum discussed the opportunities offered by the special economic zones and the promising growth potential they provide to investors around the world.
Talks also touched on key topics that dealt with Saudi Arabia’s strengths, including the supportive and competitive regulatory environment, the strategic geographical location that boosts the country’s position as a vital center for supply chains and logistics services, and the advanced digital infrastructure capable of supporting ICT companies and the global cloud computing system.
The forum reviewed the latest developments in the Saudi program that focuses on attracting regional headquarters of international companies.
Some of the most important advantages offered by the special economic zones in Saudi Arabia include competitive tax rates and exemption from customs duties on imports, production inputs, machinery and raw materials.