Arid Saudi could need ‘$50bn’ in wa­ter in­vest­ment

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

RIYADH: Arid Saudi Ara­bia could need more than $53 bil­lion in wa­ter sec­tor in­vest­ment sup­ported by pri­vate funds as de­mand grows, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day. The world’s largest oil ex­porter, whose petroleum rev­enues fell 51 per­cent last year on de­clin­ing crude prices, is push­ing to di­ver­sify its econ­omy through greater pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment of new in­dus­tries. Among govern­ment agen­cies tar­geted for pri­va­ti­za­tion is the Sa­line Wa­ter Con­ver­sion Cor­po­ra­tion (SWCC), which de­sali­nates wa­ter from the Gulf and Red Sea coasts.

“Fu­ture plants will be ten­dered to the pri­vate sec­tor,” Ali Al-Hazmi, SWCC gov­er­nor, told the govern­ment-or­ga­nized Wa­ter In­vest­ment Fo­rum. “We have ev­ery­thing ready for pri­va­ti­za­tion.” The desert king­dom, which has no rivers, ob­tains most of its wa­ter from de­sali­na­tion and the rest from ground sources. “This re­quires a lot of money and a lot of cap­i­tal in­vest­ment,” Man­sour Al-Mushaiti, a deputy min­is­ter with the min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment, wa­ter and agri­cul­ture, told the fo­rum. “We are en­vis­ag­ing that the cap­i­tal re­quire­ments in the next five years will reach up to 200 bil­lion Saudi riyals ($53.3 bil­lion).”

SWCC, cre­ated in 1974, is the world’s largest pro­ducer of de­sali­nated wa­ter. It op­er­ates 28 plants and as part of the process is able to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity for the na­tional power grid. Saudi wa­ter de­mand is in­creas­ing by more than five per­cent an­nu­ally, Hazmi said at the start of the two-day fo­rum. By 2020 the king­dom is tar­get­ing 52 per­cent of de­sali­nated wa­ter pro­duc­tion through “strate­gic part­ners”. — AFP

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