JEDDAH // Foreign companies hiring and training Saudi nationals in remote regions of the kingdom will be offered tax cuts and other financial assistance, says Amr al Dabagh, the governor of Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (Sagia).
The incentives are aimed at jump-starting economic development in far-flung parts of the country suffering from high unemployment and poverty.
Recent financial measures unveiled in the country would help to open "thousands" of investment opportunities, said Mr al Dabagh.
On Friday, King Abdullah ordered an increase in Saudi spending, including US$67 billion (Dh246.08bn) on housing and bonuses for Saudi employees.
"This will contribute to energising the economy and bringing investment to unprecedented level in the next five years," Mr al Dabagh said in a speech during the final day of the Jeddah Economic Forum. "It will make it easier for foreign and domestic businesses to create businesses."
Established in 2000, Sagia's mandate is to upgrade the country's international competitiveness by creating jobs and building a knowledge-based economy.
Its role also includes responsibility for overseeing the four multibillion-dollar economic cities springing up across the country.
The tax incentives and financial assistance available for foreign companies would be applicable to those hiring and employing nationals and establishing research programmes in less developed parts of the kingdom, he said.
Unemployment in parts of Saudi Arabia runs at more than 40 per cent, with joblessness especially pressing among young people.
During the speech, Mr al Dabagh fielded criticism from Saudi businessmen in the audience about the nature of Sagia's role and denied its policies favoured foreign companies over local businesses.
More than 100 economic reforms had been pushed through by the government in the past year, he said.
In addition, it had launched an initiative to enable all government administrative services connected to the economic cities to be provided within 60 minutes, he said.