Saudi SWF proposal fuels Shura Council debate

Reports of 'differing views' among members of influential advisory body but no decision on setting up wealth fund

A proposal to set up a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund attracted debate at a meeting of the kingdom's influential Shura council advisory body but failed to yield a result, state media reported on Tuesday.

A report by the council's financial committee has said the National Reserve Fund, which would invest part of the kingdom's vast hydrocarbon wealth, would build on its financial stability.

Details of its investment strategy have yet to be disclosed publicly, but if the proposed fund is run like the sovereign wealth funds of other wealthy Gulf states such as Qatar and Abu Dhabi, it could mean a change in the way Saudi money flows through global markets.

So far the country's central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, has long managed the country's investment of oil surpluses abroad, focusing on low-risk assets.

The size of Saudi Arabia's foreign reserves suggests the new sovereign wealth fund could become one of the largest in the world, depending on the proportion of reserves it was allocated.

"After the committee presented its report ... differing opinions emerged between setting up the fund or finding the performance of SAMA and the Public Investment Fund sufficient in the field of investments," the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday following the two-day meeting of the body.

SPA said the council agreed the financial committee would present their views in response to members' views at the next session - the timing of which was not disclosed.

Local media said this week the proposed Saudi fund would start with capital of 30 percent of budget surpluses accumulated over past years. In 2013 alone, the government posted a budget surplus of 206 billion riyals ($55 billion).

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