1999 News Story

Commerce minister addresses Group-77 meeting in Beirut

As leader of the Saudi delegation to the meeting in Beirut of the Asian Group-77, Minister

of Commerce Osama Bin Jaafar Faqih affirmed that the Kingdom had not abandoned its support

of the developing countries to which it has been providing help for over three decades. He

reminded the meeting that Saudi Arabia had written off a total of U.S. $ 6 billion in debt

for these countries.

Referring to the economic crisis in East Asia that started about two years ago, he said

there had been negative effects on a number of countries, and Saudi Arabia was not isolated

from these effects.  Prices of raw materials, notably petroleum, fell as a result of the

drop in demand because of the recession.  Minister Faqih expressed the hope for radical

changes in the structure of the international financial system to allow for better

mechanisms for privatization, risk management, organizing the financial sector, and

developing acceptable criteria worldwide.  He urged developing countries to enhance their

productive structures, and set up a rational climate for the activation of the mechanisms

of the free market economy, giving the private sector the opportunity to play a meaningful

role, maintaining economic stability, and intensifying efforts for transfer of technology.

He also called upon the member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate

the process for countries intending to join.
Referring to the Kingdom's Seventh Five-Year Development Plan (2000-2004), he said its

strategic objectives continue to concentrate on three major areas: developing the nation's

manpower and increasing job opportunities; upgrading economic efficiency in both government

and private sectors; and promoting greater participation of the private sector in the

nation's economy. The results of implementing this ongoing policy have been that the

contribution of the private sector to the non-oil GDP rose to 55 percent in 1998,

reflecting the government's efforts to expand the economic base, diversify sources of

income, and develop the private sector's capability.