Saudi Arabia creates new ministry of industry and mining
Saudi Arabia announced that it has created an independent ministry of industry and mineral resources, separating it from the energy ministry, a move that is understood as part of the kingdom’s strategy to diversify the economy away from oil.
In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a plan called Vision 2030 aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on crude by reinforcing other economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil industry trade of goods and consumer products with other nations, and growing government spending on health, education, infrastructure, recreation, tourism, and the military.
The creation of the new ministry falls within that larger vision and according to state news media, it will be fully independent starting on January 1, 2020. Bandar Al-Khorayef, a businessman from the Saudi industrial conglomerate Khorayef Group, will be the department’s head.
Under Al-Khorayef, the ministry should reach the goal of increasing the value of mining operations to reach $69.3 billion. Currently, the direct and indirect contribution of the sector to the kingdom’s GDP is estimated to be around $21.3 billion.
Saudi Arabia’s central and northern regions contain large amounts of bauxite, as well as silver, zinc, copper, magnesite, and kaolin deposits. The Middle Eastern country is also host to some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate and tantalum, and of up to 20 Moz of gold in known deposits.
Foreign firms are being encouraged to start taking a look at such deposits, as part of the mandate of the new ministry — which is expected to oversee the Saudi Industrial Property Authority or MODON — is also to attract leading global companies. Within Vision 2030, foreign direct investment is being pushed to contribute 5.7% of the GDP from the current 3.8%. In parallel, the private sector’s contribution to the GDP is predicted to rise to 65% from the current 40%.
Just over a month ago, the kingdom also expanded the mandate of its $28-billion Saudi Industrial Development Fund to allow the financing of energy, logistics and mining projects. Previously, the fund only provided financing to local manufacturing businesses.
The changes allow companies to apply for financing options such as multi-purpose term loans and acquisition financing, while ventures outside the country that have Saudi investors are now eligible to apply for funding.
According to The Guardian, the appointment of al-Khorayef for the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources is seen as a reduction in influence for the energy minister, Khalid al-Falih.
Al-Falih has been the face of OPEC diplomacy over the past three years and has spearheaded the idea of curtailing production to balance crude markets and prop up prices.
He is also the executive arm behind the plan to list, maybe as soon as 2020, the state-owned oil company Aramco, which is considered the most profitable company on the planet with revenues of $355.9 billion in 2018.