RIYADH, Saudi Arabia

The Saudi cabinet on Wednesday approved a privatization plan aimed at increasing the participation of the private sector in the kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In a statement, the cabinet said the plan includes 100 potential initiatives in 16 different sectors, including ports, education, health, energy, water, agriculture and communication, according to the Saudi state news agency (SPA).

“There are initiatives that will be floated by privatizing some governmental services in 16 sectors,” Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said.

Al-Jadaan, who heads the Privatization Program Committee, said the privatization plan aims to increase the participation of the private sector from 40% to 65% of the Saudi GDP.

Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest economy and the world’s largest oil exporter, is seeking to reinvigorate its Vision 2030 economic plan — a strategy to diversify its oil-dependent economy.

In 2018, the Council of Economic and Development Affairs approved a privatization program designed to meet the goals of Vision 2030 under which the kingdom offered state assets with a value of 35-40 billion Saudi riyals ($9.3-$10.7 billion) for sale.

Saudi Arabia was badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic as its oil exports decreased amid a drop in oil prices.

In 2020, the kingdom registered a deficit of $79.5 billion where its revenues reached $205.5 billion while its expenditure mounted to $285 billion.

Saudi Arabia’s 2021 budget also registered a deficit of $38 billion as it expects to spend $264 billion while its revenues are expected to reach $226 billion.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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