Missile threats won't spook Saudi Arabia's economy, finance minister says

Saudi Arabia’s economy is unfazed by geopolitical turmoil in the region, its finance minister said Wednesday when asked about intensifying conflicts with its neighbors.

“There has been a lot of turbulence around the world. If the economy is going be crippled just because a terrorist group is in access of one or two hundred missiles, that is a serious problem,” Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Abu Dhabi.

“All our reforms have been done while terrorist activities are taking place on our border, trying to impact our economy, and we are saying no — we are going to defend our territory, but that will not distract us from pushing social, legal and financial reforms.”

The minister was referring to the broad set of reforms underway in the kingdom, most notable “Vision 2030,” a large-scale initiative aimed at creating private sector jobs, improving education and diversifying the country’s oil-dependent economy away from hydrocarbons.

Regional observers have questioned the viability of such a reform agenda amid fluctuating oil prices and fraught geopolitical tensions like Saudi Arabia’s military involvement in Yemen’s civil war and its escalating tensions with regional arch-rival Iran.

Earlier this month, Saudi’s southern city of Jizan was the target of missile fire by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which it says was successfully intercepted. The strike followed a missile attack in March which was the Yemeni rebels’ largest offensive in its three-year war thus far, sending seven long-range rockets toward the Saudi capital Riyadh.

“We’ve received in the last two years or so about 100-plus missiles, all have been intercepted successfully, and our economy was not impacted at all,” Al-Jadaan said.

The Saudi government says Houthi rebels have fired at least 116 missiles at the kingdom since it went to war in Yemen in 2015, and claims that all have been intercepted.

Last March marked the third year of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s bloody civil war, where it has launched an indiscriminate and widely criticized aerial bombing campaign. The protracted conflict has killed more than 10,000 people.

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