Saudi Arabia signs 20-bln-USD deals with Pakistan

Riyadh Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud on Sunday signed with Pakistan eight agreements worth 20 billion US dollars, Al Arabiya TV reported.

One of the agreements is about Saudi Arabia’s Aramco-run refinery in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, one of the world’s largest refineries, at a value of 10 billion US dollars.

“Pakistan is a dear country to the Saudi people and we will be partners as we have always been,” Al Arabiya quoted the Saudi crown prince as saying.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are working together to expand economic partnership, particularly in the tourism sector, he added.

The Saudi crown prince is currently on a two-day official visit to Pakistan, the first leg of his Asian tour starting on Sunday. He is scheduled to visit China and India later.

Soon after Pulwama terror attack, Saudi Arabia had said it stood with India in its fight against terrorism and extremism and denounced as “cowardly” the attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group which killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

According to official media, the Crown Prince is accompanied by a high-powered delegation, including members of Saudi Royal family, key ministers and leading businessmen. This is his first official visit to Pakistan since his elevation to the position of Crown Prince in April 2017.

Prince Mohammed’s investment plans may assist Khan’s efforts to revive an economy hurt by widening current account and fiscal deficits. They may also help Pakistan become less reliant on China, which is investing about $60 billion in the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner followed by the UAE, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has already given a $3 billion loan to Pakistan, while the United Arab Emirates provided another $1 billion to help South Asia’s second biggest economy avert a financial crisis. Finance Minister Asad Umar said this month the nation is close to signing a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund to boost dwindling foreign reserves.

The Saudi “investment and infrastructure projects should provide a welcome supply-side boost” to the economy, said Bilal Khan, a senior economist at Standard Chartered Plc in Dubai. However, “addressing the country’s twin deficits will require fiscal and monetary policy action, likely under an IMF program.”

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