October 4, 2017 / 8:42 AM / a year ago

Saudis consolidate control of state funds in drive for growth

RIYADH, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s government has created a body centralising control of its economic development funds as it prepares to spend billions of dollars to jump-start growth.

Austerity policies in the past two years have begun to cut a huge state budget deficit caused by low oil prices, but as a result, growth of the non-oil economy has slowed to a crawl. So the government wants to use roughly half a dozen state funds to help develop non-oil industries and create jobs.

Control of these funds has been spread between various ministries and agencies, however, making coordination difficult at times. The new body, the National Development Fund (NDF), supervises and links together the individual funds, the official SPA news agency said on Wednesday.

With a board appointed by King Salman, the NDF will oversee institutions including the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), the Saudi Fund for Development, the Agricultural Development Fund, the Social Development Bank and the Human Resources Development Fund, SPA said.

The SIDF, which has capital of at least 65 billion riyals ($17.3 billion), provides loans to industries ranging from chemicals to building materials and food.

Saudi Arabia’s top sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, which is believed to have assets of about $180 billion and is also heavily involved in economic development projects within the country, was not listed as under the supervision of the new body. (Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Keith Weir)

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