Geert Bekaert and Campbell R. Harvey's
Chronology of Economic, Political and Financial Events in Emerging Markets
Saudi Arabia
Major Political and Economic Events
The introduction of the Insider Trading Laws.a4
The SAMA authorized the establishment of a special fund, the country fund, to facilitate indirect portfolio investment in Saudi Arabian riyal securities, primarily the shares of Saudi Arabian joint-stock companies. The country fund was established by a Saudi American bank that also manages it.a3(first entry)
A stand-alone IFCG Saudi Arabia was launched.
EMDB rebalanced the IFC indexes and Saudi Arabia joined the IFCG Composite, IFCG EMEA, and IFCG Middle East and Africa index series.
The Saudi government released an austerity budget, cutting spending by 15.8% over previous levels. But a 44 billion riyal ($11.7 billion) deficit was still projected.
Blue-chip Saudi American Bank and United Saudi Bank announced the planned merger.
Global oil prices rose.
The government re-shuffled the council of ministers, but left key economic ministers (commerce, finance, industry, and oil) in place.
The government established a Supreme Economic Council (SEC).
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah announced that the country was working to relax restrictions hampering foreign investment.
The Ministry of Finance announced the groundbreaking decision to allow non-Saudi investors to own shares in the local market through mutual funds.
OPEC's Vienna agreement to increase collective output by 1.7 million barrels per day pushed SABIC (the leading petrochemical holding company) profits up fourfold.
Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki was named head of a new agency to oversee and facilitate implementation of investment procedures for foreign investors. The government granted a five- and ten-year tax holiday to new companies with at least 25% Saudi ownership. The government also announced that foreign companies would invest up to US$100 billion in the country's energy sector, in an effort to fight unemployment.
One of the largest deals was closed for the expansion of SABIC affiliate's Jubail Petrochemicals plant, with a US$600 million loan package.
In the second half of the year, the first tranche of 24 million shares in Saudi Telecommunications Company was sold. The government allowed foreign ownership of property, except in Mecca and Medina. Employers were required to 85% of the cost of medical insurance.
Saudi Arabia declined to raise its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day. Global inflation worries increased.
The government announced plans to have private companies increase their Saudi staff by 25% over the next year.
Oil prices reached a new 10-year high of US$34 per barrel. After a recent merger with United Saudi Bank, the Saudi American Bank (Samba) posted record profits.
The Middle East peace talks failed.
Higher oil prices resulted in a historically wide budget surplus. Terms of Sauid Aribia's World Trade Organization membership were negotiated.
OPEC cut 1.5 million barrels per day off the oil market.
The government unexpectedly listed a group of sectors in which foreigners cannot invest.
During the second quarter, Saudi Arabia signed agreements for three natual-gas development projects with major oil companies. A new investment code lowered import duties at 5%. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority recorded over US$8 billion in foreign investment pledges.
Early in the third quarter, OPEC held an emergency meeting and agreed to cut its quota by 1 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia pushed for the establishment of an International Islamic Money Market (IIMM) with five other Islamic nations.
The Gulf Cooperation Council negotiated with the European Union for a free-trade agreement to accelerate market reforms. Saudi Telecommunications Company had rejected foreign strategic holders.
At the end of the year, Saudi Arabia announced cooperation with the U.S. to combact the financing of terrorism.
The government announced the discovery of a natural gas deposit in Al-Mazaleej. Ericsson and Lucent Technologies jointly won a US$600 million contract to expand the kingdom's mobile phone network. Saudi Arabia and Russia's negotiation of oil output cut was successful.
In the fourth quarter, the government revised foreign investment rules. For the first time, foreign investors had access to land, and taxes on foreign companies were reduced. Saudi authorities stepped efforts to nationalize the workforce.
010925 Saudi Arabia announced today that it has severed all links with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after neighbouring UAE did the same yesterday. An official statement carried by the official SPA news agency cited the Taliban's failure to respond to Saudi initiatives to convince the country to hand over Osama Bin Laden (suspected of masterminding the recent terrorist attack on the US) as the main reason for cutting all links. Saudi Arabia urged the Taliban to stop harbouring and training terrorists who committed criminal acts contrary to every religion and damaging to the reputation of Islam and Muslims around the world. The break in relations between Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan leaves Pakistan as the only remaining country that recognises the Taliban government. The decision taken by Saudi Arabia became almost inevitable when the UAE broke off relations with the Taliban yesterday, under intense US pressure. Some 200,000 Afghans work in Saudi Arabia, and it is likely that Pakistan will now represent their interests in Saudi Arabia, although no official announcement has yet been made
020116 Saudi Arabia is opening up the fertile southern plain areas of Jizan and Tihama to foreign investment, it was announced at an agricultural forum this week. The government has also said that it will be reviewing the 'negative list' of sectors closed to foreign investment, and may be preparing to allow investment in services
020305 Saudi Arabia's sovereign guaranteed foreign debt has been estimated at almost US$35bn by the Abu Dhabi based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF). The level is forecast to climb slightly to US$35.1bn over 2002. However, the bulk of external debt does not represent direct government borrowing abroad but debt raised by state institutions and subsequently guaranteed by the state. The AMF expects the current account to revert to a deficit of around -US$4.1bn, weighed down by lower prices and production levels from a US$8.3bn surplus recorded last year. As oil income slumps, the government is expected to increase its already high level of domestic borrowing to plug a looming US$12bn budget deficit. Domestic debt currently stands at a massive US$168bn, the largest of any Arab sovereign
020320 The state-owned Saudi Arabia mining company, Maaden, is reported to be in talks with a private Saudi firm over developing phosphate reserves in the north of the country. The al-Riyadh newspaper quoted the chairman of Maarden, Abdullah al-Dabbagh, as saying that the company is interested in a US$2bn project to extract more than 100m tonnes of phosphate from the Jalameed area near the Jordanian border. The project also involves the construction of a petrochemical plant at Jubail industrial city. Maarden was set up five years ago to develop Saudi Arabia's rich mineral deposits and currently extracts gold, silver, copper and zinc. According to the company, geological surveys indicate the presence of enough phosphate to support mining in the kingdom for 100 years
020415 The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) said yesterday that during the past two years it has granted licences to foreign investors worth over US$10.2bn. SAGIA approved licences for a total of 784 projects - most of which were wholly-owned by foreign investors (467 licences worth US$8.3bn). The remainder were granted to joint venture projects which also included Saudi companies. Saudi authorities have targeted increased levels of foreign investment as an important objective in efforts to reduce reliance on the country's massive oil and gas sector and create more jobs.
020522 The final touches are being made to a bill that will, for the first time, regulate Saudi Arabia's booming insurance industry. The Shura Council has approved the legislation in principle but sent the bill back to the committee stage for a series of minor changes. The 24-article bill is likely to be given final approval over the coming weeks. The bill is based upon the Islamic concept of cooperative insurance.
021003 Deposits in domestic banks surged by SR21.49bn (US$5.7bn) between August 2001 and August 2002 as funds continued to flee global financial regulations imposed in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US. The estimates were made yesterday by Abdulaziz Sager, managing director of Sager GroupHolding and founder of the Gulf Research Center, during an address to the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Dubai. Islamic capital, in particular Saudi funds, has been pulled from US and European markets after billions of dollars of assets owned by Arab banks, welfare institutions and individual businessmen were summarily frozen
021014 The budget deficit for fiscal year (FY) 2002 is set to weigh in far lower than the -US$12bn originally forecast as oil prices continue to crest unexpected highs amid concern over a potential US-led attack on Iraq. Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf confirmed on Saturday (12 October) that revenues for the first three quarters of the year have increased above estimates, while expenditure has been kept in line with budget targets. However, Assaf played down speculation that the budget could reverse into surplus. Revenues were originally projected at SR157bn (US$41.9bn) in 2002 against spending targeted at SR202bn (US$53.9bn).
021029 Saudi Arabia's acting ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, today ordered the Interior Ministry to employ 'whatever procedures and penalties need to be implemented' in order to ban all foreigners from driving taxis in Saudi Arabia. The measure would free up tens of thousands of jobs for Saudi nationals and is part of the government's 'Saudisation' policy. Crown Prince Abdullah has given the authorities six months to implement the directive. There are an estimated 50,000 foreigners employed in Saudi Arabia as taxi drivers and this directive is simply the latest attempt to bar foreign nationals from the profession - several attempts have been made in the past four years, but the policy has proved difficult to implement.
021220 Money supply rose by 13.2% at the end of October from a year ago to total SR298.6bn (US$79.6bn), according to data published yesterday by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA). Liquidity has been boosted by a sharp increase in state spending and restructuring of bank assets. Repatriation of overseas funds to avoid indiscriminate clampdowns on global financing in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US also boosted liquidity levels
030305 The Saudi Monetary Agency (SAMA) has announced a staggering 31% unemployment rate in the kingdom, highlighting the steadily mounting demographic and social challenge facing Saudi Arabia. The report, 'Unemployment: Causes and Remedies', calls for a review of the sponsorship system and an acceleration of the policy of 'Saudisation' of the workforce, whereby quotas are introduced to limit the number of foreign workers and boost employment of nationals. In a related development, legislation preventing foreigners from working as salesmen and administrators in jewellery showrooms was formally implemented yesterday (4 March) and will affect around 6,000 jewellery shops. The government is hoping the new measures will create around 20,000 new jobs for Saudi nationals. Whilst there has been broad support for the aims of the Saudisation policy, shop owners in the lucrative jewellery sector have expressed concern over the policy's adverse effects - they believe it will bring in untrained or only partially trained workers expecting higher salaries.
030408 The leading Tadawul All-Shares Index soared to a high of 2,944 points in trade yesterday (7 April), emulating the trend-bucking performance of other bourses in the Gulf region. Since the beginning of the year the index has gained 16.9%. Speculators in the region are betting on an investment boom as the US-led coalition contemplates the mammoth task of Iraq's post-war reconstruction
030508 Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf has said there will be no further general tax cuts for foreign companies, although local business representatives say only a lower rate will provide the necessary economic stimulation and would ultimately provide better returns.  The Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry said yesterday that a rate of 10% would benefit the economy more than the 25% proposed in a bill recently approved by the Shura Council
030617 Moody's Investors Service has upgraded Saudi Arabia's long-term foreign debt ratings to Baa2, citing subsiding risk following the swift conclusion of the US-led war in Iraq
030801 A senior member of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) counter-terrorism unit has told a Senate hearing on terrorist financing that the 12 May al-Qaida suicide bombings in Riyadh acted as a 'wake-up call' for Saudi Arabia. The official, John Pistole, told the hearing yesterday (31 July) that since the attacks 'we have had unprecedented co-operation with [the Saudis] in virtually every area', noting the large number of detentions and killings of terror suspects
030911 British arms company BAE Systems has been accused of maintaining a 20m (US$32m) 'slush fund' in order to bribe Saudi officials, from which company employees are alleged to have fraudulently withdrawn money
031211 The National Commercial Bank (NCB) has forecast that the budget balance will accrue a SR51bn (US$13.6bn) surplus in FY2003, in a report quoted by Reuters. The projection marks an abrupt reversal from initial expectations that the budget would incur a SR39bn deficit
040127 As part of its efforts to get more Saudis into work, the government is reviewing labour legislation and may approve a new labour law allowing employers to dismiss Saudi employees more easily. According to Arab News, the law will mean that Saudi workers can be sacked for inefficiency, on the condition that a legal team concludes the dismissal is not arbitrary. The government has made a number of efforts to 'Saudise' the workforce and has banned foreigners from working in more than 20 professions, including fields such as corporate administration, management training, public relations and information and data processing
040219 Officials involved in negotiations over Saudi Arabia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have said that once the kingdom joins the body, some restrictions on foreign investment are likely to be lifted. Although restrictions on investment in the oil sector will remain in place post-WTO accession, parts of the service sector should be opened up, according to a report in the Khaleej Times. Other sectors currently on the 'negative list' of areas off-limits to foreign investment will then be gradually liberalised following membership
040427 The Council of Ministers has approved in principle legislation cutting the rate of corporate taxation for foreign companies operating in Saudi Arabia. The legislation, the Saudi Arabian Income Tax Law of 2004, was approved by the consultative Shura Council in January 2004 and will effect a reduction in corporate taxation from the current rate of 25% to a maximum rate of 20%
040513 Saudi Arabia is expecting growth near last year's 6.4% in 2004, based on high oil prices. However, Finance Minister Dr Ibrahim Al-Assaf said that the country would stick to expenditure targets of SR230bn (US$61.3bn) this year and use any excess to reduce the debt burden, Reuters reported. Economists estimate that Saudi Arabia reduced its public debt by SR20bn last year to around SR630bn, or 80% of GDP. Al-Assaf also said that militant attacks had not dampened the Saudi economy and said there were no signs of investors pulling out money because of security fears.
040618 Fresh Attacks on Americans in Saudi Capital, Militants Set Sights on Military Personnel
040701 Security Forces Kill Leading Saudi Militant, While Al-Qaida Scoffs at Amnesty Offer
Regulations on Foreign Investors

Restrictions: Foreign investors are allowed to invest in all open-end mutual funds offered by Saudi Arabian banks. (In 1997, the first special purpose vehicle (SPV) to facilitate foreign portfolio investment in equities was authorized.)

Taxation: Not available.a7

2000 A set of laws permitting full foreign ownership of Saudi ventures and property came into force in May 2000, in legislation designed to attract investors previously deterred by the lack of ownership rights and guarantees in Saudi investment law, and the need to form joint ventures with national investors in which the foreign partner was limited to a maximum 49% stake
2002 Moves towards attracting foreign investment continued in 2002 with the opening up of the southern plains and the removal of some sectors from a list of protected industries.
2003 the Supreme Economic Council (SEC) removed another six sectors fully or partially from a list of economic activities in which foreign investors are currently barred from participating. While the reforms are not likely to lead to a flood of new investments, they indicate that the kingdom is committed to, if somewhat slow to act on, attracting FDI.
tr> 2003 the Supreme Economic Council (SEC) removed another six sectors fully or partially from a list of economic activities in which foreign investors are currently barred from participating. While the reforms are not likely to lead to a flood of new investments, they indicate that the kingdom is committed to, if somewhat slow to act on, attracting FDI.