Lebanon Businessnews News

Saudis seek better relations
Businessmen can get visas to KSA upon arrival
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The government of Saudi Arabia isn't currently taking official measures to prevent its nationals from visiting Lebanon, but it is not encouraging them either, given the prevalent instability, said Ali Awad Assiri, KSA Ambassador.

During an event hosted by the Beirut Traders’ Association, Assiri said it is vital to enhance mutual economic cooperation in both the private and public sectors.

“Businessmen (from both countries) should enhance collaboration between them and exchange business visits to explore investment opportunities, and ministries and official institutions should organize mutual visits, specialized conferences, and long-term development projects,” he said.

According to Assiri, the KSA has taken all measures to facilitate visas for businesspersons: “Visas can now be issued in one day. Businessmen can receive their visas upon arrival at the KSA airport, an effort achieved in collaboration with the Saudi Chambers of Commerce.” Assiri also denied rumors that Arab funds are refraining from funding projects in Lebanon. According to Saad Azhari, Chairman of BLOM Bank, the KSA is the number one source of foreign direct investments (FDI): “KSA investments reached $5 billion over the past decade, accounting for 19 percent of all foreign investments in the same period.”

Azhari said FDI from the KSA is mostly directed to real estate, followed by banking and tourism. “Saudi investments in the banking sector make up around $1 billion, eight percent of the sector’s whole equity.”

KSA investments in stocks and government Eurobonds, as well as loans and grants have gone over $2.5 billion.

Nassib Ghobril, Head of Research Department at Byblos Bank, said: “Up to 80 percent of FDI come from the Gulf, especially from Saudi Arabia.”

“According to a study we have conducted 18 percent of the overall remittances are from Saudi Arabia and are estimated to be around $1.3 billion per year,” said Ghobril. Remittances from the Gulf make up some 31 percent of overall remittances, he said.

Assiri said bilateral trade relations are lower than their expected level, considering the intensity of mutual ties. Imports from the KSA stood at $434 million in 2012, while exports to it reached $359 million. Assiri said: “Exports and imports were much affected by the crisis in Syria, which is the main portal of trade, as well as local political bickering.”

“Political counterparts should collaborate to achieve calm and stability, which would encourage tourists to return to the country and bring back investors,” he said.

Ghobril said: “The best solution is to create stability to attract four-year medium-term investments.”
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
Date Posted: May 24, 2013
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