Addressing a conference at the United Nations in New York yesterday, Executive Director for Saudi Arabia at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) Dr. Yahya Al-Yahya gave assurances that the Kingdom will continue to do its part in offering assistance to developing countries, with four percent of its annual Gross National Product exported as foreign aid. Since 1973, he said, this has benefited over 70 countries, and has totaled nearly U.S. $80 billion. The four-week conference, which opened on Monday, is deliberating the achievement of the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ for the fifty least developed countries (LDCs), and focusing on governance, trade, sustained economic growth, and mobilization of financial resources.
Dr. Al-Yahya commented on the key role of workers’ remittances in the economy of LDCs, whose nationals seek employment abroad and send money home, pointing out that Saudi Arabia is the source of around $17 billion annually in this respect. The recipients of these remittances, he suggested, should be encouraged to invest in small business development instead of buying consumer products. He went on to say that part of the problem for sustainable development is that some countries are in dire circumstances through no fault of their own, vulnerable to external shocks because of their geographical location and the fluctuations of international markets, and referred specifically to the shadow cast over the entire Middle East region by the failure to resolve the Israeli-Arab dispute. Another part of the problem is the need to establish a sound macroeconomic policy by eliminating unnecessary tax incentives and improving tax administration, since inefficient infrastructure impedes the flow of commerce, especially for exports.