Energy Dialogue Forum concluded in Riyadh

November 23, 2011

The Energy Dialogue Forum 2011, organized by the King Abdullah Center for Petroleum Studies and Research, concluded its activities in Riyadh yesterday. The Forum focused on oil prices, solar energy in the Kingdom, market incentives, and energy efficiency. Nearly 900 delegates representing producer and consumer-nations, global organizations and research groups attended the three-day gathering. Participants included Secretary General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Abdallah Salam El-Badri; Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Maria van der Hoeven; and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Exxon/Mobil Corporation Rex W. Tillerson.

In a speech delivered yesterday, Minister of Finance Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf stressed the strength and durability of the Saudi economy. “Thanks to its financial and economic policies, the Saudi economy has managed to withstand the winds of financial crisis since it began in 2008,” he said. “At the height of the 2009 financial crisis, Saudi Arabia was among a handful of G-20 economies that posted positive GDP growth . . . Moreover, as a result of this investment program, there are multiple positive outward spillover effects on the regional and the global economies through the trade and remittance channels.”

Dr. Al-Assaf asserted that Saudi Arabia plays a fundamental role in the global economy, pointing to its role stabilizing energy markets, its cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and its membership in the Group of Twenty (G-20). Furthermore, “Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries that have fulfilled the U.N. target for official development assistance (ODA),” he said. “While the difficult global economic environment has increased the pressure on official development assistance resources elsewhere, Saudi Arabia has continued to provide a significant amount of assistance that has already exceeded one percent of GDP.” Dr. Al-Assaf specifically praised the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s “Energy for the Poor” Initiative.

Dr. Al-Assaf expressed confidence that the Kingdom will continue to enjoy strong growth. “The government is pushing ahead with its massive infrastructure projects including, schools, roads, bridges, rail roads, power plants, among many others,” he said. “We are currently implementing our first science and technology strategy at a cost of over $2 billion.”

During his own remarks delivered on Monday, President and CEO of Saudi Aramco Khalid Al-Falih laid out his vision of “realistic solutions” for global energy challenges. The major changes that have taken place in the world in recent years, he asserted, have turned the “terms of the global energy dialogue upside down.” Therefore, the dialogue “needs to be reset in light of several far-reaching new realities.”

The world has been changed by four developments, said Al-Falih, including the emergence of abundant hydrocarbon resources, uncertainty over the viability of renewable and alternative forms of energy, the global economic crisis, and shifts in environmental policy. In order to deal with these challenges, Al-Falih advocated more sensible, market-driven energy policies and collaborative, mutually beneficial research and development partnerships to increase efficiency. Finally, he emphasized the need to balance economic and social development with environmental protection.

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