Foreign financing companies would be allowed to operate in the Kingdom in order to boost the real estate financing sector, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Fahad Al-Mubarak said.
This will be in accordance with the provisions of the land mortgage law, he told a news conference, noting that the volume of land mortgage and financing market makes up about two percent of the Kingdom's real estate market.
The SAMA governor also urged the existing companies in this sector to complete the procedures and secure the license within nine months. He said inflation is running at acceptable levels, playing down concerns that the economy could be overheating.
Mubarak said inflation was expected to ease next year having edged up to a seven-month high of 4.2 percent year-on-year in January.
"Current inflation is tolerable and if you compare to other emerging markets we are well below," he said. "The expectation for this year and next year – and I will cite the IMF (International Monetary Fund) – is expected to be a bit lower at 4.6 in 2013 and 4.3 in 2014."
Asked if he was concerned about the high level of bank lending to the private sector, Mubarak said: "Not at all. The bank lending to the private sector is consistent with all the policies that SAMA puts (in place) and monitors."
Bank lending to Saudi Arabia's private sector rose 15.9 percent in January, only slightly slower than a 16.4 percent increase in the previous month, which was the fastest clip since February 2009.
He said the ratio of loans to deposits among the banks was about 75 percent, below the level of 85 percent which SAMA sets as a cap to limit loan growth.
"It is positive that the banks continue to lend to the private sector," he said, adding that the quality of banks' lending portfolios had improved in recent years, resulting in fewer bad loans.
Mubarak also said SAMA 's key policy rates – the repo and reverse repo – were appropriate since there were no signs of economic overheating, and their current levels of 2.0 percent and 0.25 percent, respectively, served banks quite well.
"The only (development that would change this interest rate policy) is if it causes overheating to the economy. We don't see it overheating. It is quite normal," he said.
Saudi Arabia pegs its riyal to the dollar, which Mubarak said continued to serve its economy well, repeating the country's long-standing policy position.
"As you notice throughout the world they are moving toward the very low interest rate and the objective of that is to continue to support lending to the private sector to participate in growth and create jobs," Mubarak added. He said that the Saudi economy has been witnessing continued growth over the past 13 years with the actual GDP growing by 6.8 percent last year and this figure was more than double of the global average. He expected a growth of 7.5 percent for the private sector.
The Saudi Gazette