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MENAFN - Arab News - 02/02/2013

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(MENAFN - Arab News) Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammad Al-Jasser has criticized those who have raised doubts about the validity of the latest statistics from the General Statistics and Information Department that show that 60 percent of Saudis own houses, according to Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.

He asked that the data be analyzed, not debated. "These numbers are very accurate and based on a survey implemented by an army of field workers," he said.

During a meeting that was held at JCCI, Al-Jasser told those in attendance: "We conducted a comprehensive survey of every possible dwelling that housed Saudi citizens, even garages, and we found that there are 3 million houses inhabited by Saudi households, of which 1.8 million were owned by the head of the family himself." He added, however, that not all dwellings are truly suitable for human habitation.

He went on to suggest that projects to determine the number of houses that should be rebuilt or replaced and to determine why rents are higher in some areas should be undertaken.

Al-Jasir confirmed that the increase in commodity exports from 19 percent in 1998 to 36 percent in 2011 is an indicator of the diversification of the Kingdom's economy, adding, "But this is not enough. All efforts must be made to boost our economy."

He also suggested that the future is likely to see more productive relations between the public and private sectors. "The private sector has moved from depending on government contracts and public spending to a stage in which it is driving itself and becoming a senior partner in the development process," he said.

Noting the increase in private investments, Al-Jasser said: "The increase in the value of the private sector's fixed investments doubled 20 times, from SR 7 billion in 1970 to SR 138 billion in 2011, marking a 7.5 percent increase." He added that the number of factories and plants increased from 199 to 5,991 today, and they now employ 768,000 workers.

Al-Jasser believes that it is most important to expand the industrial sector so as to reinforce internal integration of the sector itself. "The expansion should touch pharmaceuticals and information technology and witness the entrance of investors to new fields of industry," he said, referring to the fledgling automobile industry,which represents a positive indicator of economic diversification in the Kingdom. "This aforementioned industry should lead to more opportunities for medium and small enterprises, including suppliers and satellite industries."

"The General Statistics and Information Department is in the process of developing its work, in particular in disseminating its data which are not available to the private sector at the moment," he said, stressing that the sector is in bad need of this data for reading economic indicators.

He explained that the private sector's contribution in the Saudi GNP was calculated at less than 15 percent. "From 2010, its contribution increased by 15 percent compared with previous data," he said.


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