(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia needs to pass a mortgage law and establish joint private and public funding initiatives to help tackle Saudi Arabia's housing needs, said Jan O' Sullivan, Irish minister of housing and planning on Sunday.
O' Sullivan said that Ireland was willing to provide any housing expertise needed by the Saudi government. She said there was a construction boom in Ireland currently because of the Irish government's housing program.
According to a recent study, the Kingdom needs 300,000 residential units every year over the next 15 years, which comes to a total of 4.5 million units. In Riyadh, the lack of affordable homes is especially acute. There is a shortage of 225,000 residential units.
Sullivan, who delivered a lecture on 'Construction of housing for an increasing population' at the Jeddah Economic Forum said that such a massive program needs both government and private sector funding for successful completion of the projects. She said that passing of the state mortgage law would further boost the housing program in the Kingdom. The minister was in Riyadh to attend her country's National Day celebrations hosted by Irish Ambassador Niall Holohan on Sunday.
Recalling the Memorandum of Understanding on education between the two countries, she said that there were some 2,000 Saudi students currently studying at various Irish universities and colleges. "We hope to see more young students coming to Ireland to study medicine, engineering, business and English," she said.
"We are also interested in cooperating with the Kingdom in its vocational training programs," she said, adding that the Kingdom plans to set up three major vocational training colleges in the country.
Speaking to Arab News on Irish National Day, Holohan said: "Trade has been the key to Ireland's economic revival. Exports are now at a higher level than before the financial crisis and are continuing to grow steadily and our balance of payments is once again in surplus. Exports in Ireland's traditional agri-food sector alone have risen 28 percent in the past three years. Trade with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been of particular importance with bilateral trade in goods and services between the two countries now approaching 1 billion per annum."
"Foreign direct investment into Ireland is also vigorous with some of the biggest household names from around the world - such as Apple, Amgen and Eli Lilly - being included among these investors. Such investment into Ireland is attracted by our increased international competitiveness. We are now among the 20 most competitive countries in the world.
"In terms of the euro zone countries, Ireland currently ranks first both for ease of doing business as well as for the availability of skilled labor. We have a young, adaptable and highly-educated workforce in the only English-speaking member of the euro zone, with barrier-free access to 500 million consumers. At present, eight out of the top 10 global ICT firms, 15 of the top medical technology companies, nine of the 10 top global pharmaceutical firms, and all 10 of the largest online companies in the world are based in Ireland."
In its 40th year as an EU member state, the envoy said Ireland was already nearly halfway through its seventh rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
"The presidency, which is part of a renewed and re-energized engagement with the EU by Ireland, has as its priorities the promotion of financial stability, jobs and growth. All three of these objectives are vital for prosperity and social harmony not only in Ireland but throughout the European Union," he said.