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Industry is more important to Saudi's future than oil, energy minister says

Key Points
  • Saudi Arabia launched a National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) on Monday as the kingdom hopes to attract 1.6 trillion riyals ($425 billion) of foreign investment by 2030, specifically into industry and logistics, mining and energy sectors.
  • The event is being attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, other government officials and international chief executives.
  • The crown prince launched his program for economic renewal in Saudi Arabia, known as Vision 2030, in 2016 and has already embarked on a number of reforms. The country is now seeking this $425 billion in infrastructure investment as part of that economic transformation away from oil.
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Industry is future of Saudi Arabia, energy minister says

Industrial progress is more vital to Saudi Arabia's future than oil, the kingdom's energy minister told CNBC Monday.

"Industry is the number one priority for the kingdom," Khalid Al-Falih told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in Riyadh.

"Oil is important, it's going to be important for as long as all of us live and beyond for generations to come. But the future of this nation, and the future of my children and grandchildren and the next few generations of Saudi Arabia is going to be shaped by how we plan and execute programs for implementing Vision 2030, like the program we're launching today. And I have to give it higher priority," he said.

Saudi Arabia launched a National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) on Monday as the kingdom hopes to attract 1.6 trillion riyals ($426 billion) of foreign investment by 2030, specifically into the industry, logistics, mining and energy sectors.

"This is a program that integrates four major pillars of the Saudi economy, they're all active now. These are nothing new but they will be stronger, more competitive and more diverse," Al-Falih said.

"The sophisticated integrative logistics sector will connect (the other pillars) and will connect the kingdom with the rest of the world and will create a platform for exports and competitiveness for the new economy for Saudi Arabia being built under the Vision 2030."

'We should not forget Saudi investment'
Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih talks to journalists at the beginning of an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria December 6, 2018. 
REUTERS | Leonhard Foeger

The event is being attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, other government officials and international chief executives. The crown prince launched his program for economic renewal in Saudi Arabia, known as Vision 2030, in 2016 and has already embarked on a number of reforms. The country is now seeking this $425 billion in infrastructure investment as part of its aim to diversify away from oil.

Al-Falih predicts interest from around the world, with deals expected to be announced with businesses from China, Europe and the U.S., as well as home-grown investors. "We should not forget Saudi investment, our private sector has a lot of dry powder in the form of cash that's available to deploy and they're waiting for the right conditions," he said.

Russia 'promised me'

Al-Falih is closely watched for his pronouncements on oil prices, markets and the major oil producer's output strategy particularly after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed in December to cut output again in order to support declining oil prices. Al-Falih told CNBC that oil remained important for the kingdom, and that the country's deal with Russia was secure.

"As the rest of the world worries about where the energy market is going to be, and I am one of them, one thing we know for sure is that Saudi Arabia is always going to have not only the most available, and the most reliable energy, but is going to be the most competitive (source of energy)," he said.

"My colleague from Russia, Alexander Novak, is on my short dial on my phone so we talk regularly and exchange views. We're committed to implementing the agreement we reached in December and all indications that it's so far so good," he said, adding that Russia had "promised me that they will pick up the pace" of production cuts. "I am hoping they will do better in February than they have done in January but they'll catch up."