RIYADH: The visit to Saudi Arabia by the British prime minister is set to boost economic ties, and the UK is keen to participate in the Kingdom’s ambitious reform plans, an expert has said.
Sheikh Nasser Al-Mutawa Al-Otaibi, co-chairman of the Saudi-British Joint Business Council (SBJBC), said on Monday that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Saudi Arabia will bolster bilateral cooperation.
May is set to arrive Tuesday on her first visit to the Kingdom, with the aim of building stronger partnerships in security, defense and trade relations.
Extending a warm welcome to the British prime minister, Al-Otaibi said that “this visit is one of the most important visits by a head of the state and (is) expected to boost bilateral economic and commercial relationship.”
Referring to the historic partnership, Al-Otaibi said that the “Saudi-British relation, which is more than 100 years old, is built on mutual trust and respect and (has) always been important to both the economies and continues to be so as Saudi Arabia is the UK’s largest trading partner in the Middle East.”
“The UK has also made clear that it wants to be a strategic partner to Saudi Arabia in Vision 2030 implementation,” Al-Otaibi added.
Speaking ahead of the visit, the British prime minister said in a statement: “As the United Kingdom leaves the EU, we are determined to forge a bold, confident future for ourselves in the world. We must look at the challenges that we, and future generations, will face and build stronger partnerships with countries that will be vital to both our security and our prosperity.”
Coinciding with the significant visit of the prime minister, SBJBC is holding a meeting in Dammam where the agenda includes a review of progress made so far, and outlining concrete steps to fulfill official policies whereby the private sector from the UK plays an important role in supporting the Saudi Vision 2030.
Commenting on the bilateral trade Al-Otaibi said the UK exported £7.34 billion of goods and services in 2015.
As per the data available for 2014 the top UK exports to Saudi Arabia include transport-related equipment, power-generating machinery and equipment, medical and pharmaceutical products, general industrial machinery, professional and scientific instruments, road vehicles and parts, foodstuffs and other consumables.
Over 6,000 UK firms are actively engaged and export goods to the Kingdom, said Al-Otaibi, who is also the chairman and founder of the Samama Holding Group, a diversified conglomerate working in construction, the operation and maintenance of large facilities as well as environmental engineering and services.
Moreover, the UK is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest cumulative investor, with approximately 200 joint ventures, which are estimated to be worth around £11.5 billion.
Saudi Arabia is a high-growth market with major projects in power, water, communications, transport and social infrastructure.
In the transport sector $45 billion has been allocated to develop railways and metro systems in cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Makkah.
In the water sector, the government is investing $66 billion in long-term capital investments over the next decade, Al-Otaibi said.
In the health sector, $100 billion has been earmarked is to build new hospitals and upgrade skills over the next five years.
The education sector accounts for over 25 percent of the total Saudi budget with increased emphasis on vocational training, while the energy sector has increased emphasis on renewable sources and new technologies.

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