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Sun 24 Jan 2010 12:04 PM

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Saudi finmin eyes at least 4% growth in 2010

Top official also says kingdom is more influential than many G8 countries.

Saudi Arabia Finance Minister Dr Ibrahim al Assaf on Sunday forecast economic growth of more than four percent in the kingdom in 2010, but brushed aside fears of inflation.

He added that the Saudi Arabia’s economy was more internationally influential than those of several G8 countries.

“I expect the growth rate to be more positive than 2009. 2009 was very small because of the negative growth of the oil sector. The non-oil sector grew by about three percent," he said.

"For 2010 I expect we will be more positive. The IMF expects more than four percent. I am hopeful it will be more than that. As far as inflation is concerned, I think there will be price stability,” he told delegates at the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh.

Talking about the Kingdom’s role in the G20, Al Assaf said: "We have been very active in the G20. Some people think we were invited, but Saudi Arabia was a founding member of G20. Everyone recognizes the of Saudi Arabia in the international economic system through our oil policy.

"Saudi Arabia is not the largest of countries , but when it comes to economic influence I can say that Saudi is more influential than some of the G8 countries.”

He added that he believed 2010 would not be the year when international government fiscal stimulus packages ceased.

“I don’t think it is time to curb spending. We need more stimulus for the world’s economies. Now isn’t the time to curb spending, otherwise we might see another dip. 2010 is a year where there is a need to keep spending.”

Al Assaf, who has been Saudi Finance Minister since 1995, talked at the conference about the Kingdom’s drive to pursue green energy opportunities, particularly solar.

“After this conference I am going to the first solar water desalination plant in Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that is would provide water for a medium sized city. He did not specify which city.

He refused to comment on progress regarding the Al Sanea, Algosaibi dispute when asked by Arabian Business, saying it was a "private matter".

Saudi Arabia is believed to have a quarter of all known oil reserves.

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