Britain to reform Saudi Arabia Defence sector: Theresa May

Britain to reform Saudi Arabia Defence sector: Theresa May

LONDON: Britain said Wednesday it would help Saudi Arabia to diversify its oil-dependent economy as British Prime Minister Theresa May visited the Gulf kingdom.

May and Saudi King Salman would discuss “tax and privatisation standards to help Saudi Arabia diversify its economy and become less reliant on oil”, a statement released by her office said.

Saudi Arabia faces a significant budget deficit with billions of dollars in debts to private firms, largely in the construction business, after a drop in global oil prices by about half since 2014.

Britain will also assist Riyadh in “building a reformed Ministry of Defence” and reviewing defence capabilities, the statement said.

May is visiting the oil-rich kingdom as she seeks to secure investment and trade after Britain officially started a two-year countdown to leave the European Union.

But May has also come under harsh criticism for her visit to the ultra-conservative kingdom.

She has faced calls at home to raise rights issues with the kingdom’s leaders, primarily over Britain’s arms sales to a Saudi-led military coalition battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen since March 2015.

Saudi Arabia has bought more than $5 billion (4.7 billion euros) worth of arms from the United States and Britain since then, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank says.