By Arab News
By P.K. Abdul Ghafour
Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said on Monday that the Kingdom’s economic performance in 2011 was the best in 20 years. “All the results show that the Kingdom’s economy and financial situation are in good shape,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the presentation of the national budget for 2012 at the Cabinet, Al-Assaf said a large part of this year’s budget surplus (SR250 billion) would be allocated to construct 500,000 housing units.
“The budget has also given utmost importance to the Haramain railway project,” he said, adding that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has given top priority to the housing and railway projects.
“Our brothers in the Housing Ministry have already finalized the designs for the housing project,” the minister said, adding that work on the project would start soon. The Haramain Railway project linking the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah has made remarkable headway.
Al-Assaf also pointed out that the Kingdom’s industrial sector achieved 15 percent growth rate in 2011. He also highlighted the private sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP), saying it amounted to 49 percent in 2011.
Commenting on the budget, Shoura Council Chairman Abdullah Al-Asheikh said the increased spending allocations in the new budget would improve the Kingdom’s progress and prosperity. “This year’s budget represents a historical shift for the Kingdom after it achieved record growth in the economic and social sectors,” he said.
Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah and Higher Education Minister Khaled Al-Anqari commended the budget for its continued support to the education sector, allocating 24 percent of the total budget for educational and training programs. “The increased budget allocation will strengthen the sector to play its vital role in the desired form,” Prince Faisal said. The budget has allocated SR168 billion for education and training.
Housing Minister Shuwaish Al-Duwaihi said the new budget reflected the strength of Saudi economy at a time when many countries in the world face economic depression. He thanked King Abdullah for allocating SR250 billion from the budget surplus for the housing projects. “With the support of the government, our ministry is currently implementing 40 housing projects in various parts of the Kingdom,” he said. “There are 11 more projects that are still in the designing stage,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry on Monday signed contracts worth more than SR1 billion to construct roads in various parts of the country. This has brought the total value of road contracts signed this year to SR8.6 billion.