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New Saudi Data Law Could Discourage Foreign Investment

Saudi Arabia’s new personal data protection law would discourage foreign investment in the world’s top crude exporter which looks to diversify from oil with tech and digital hubs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said in letter seen by Bloomberg.

In September 2021, Saudi Arabia published a draft of its Personal Data Protection Law (PDPL) which is set to come into force later in March 2022.

The current draft of the law prohibits the transfer of personal data outside Saudi Arabia, while companies not complying with this provision face criminal sanctions, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“There are several aspects of this law that pose not only significant problems for the private sector but will be significant barriers to helping the Kingdom achieve its goal to become a digital hub,” America’s biggest business lobby group said in the letter seen by Bloomberg.

“It will have a major impact on the cost and ability to do business in the Kingdom,” the group warns.

Discouraging investments is one of the last things Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, want after several years of a charm offensive to attract investments in the financial and technological sectors and make Saudi Arabia a business hub, not just a port of origin for a large part of the world’s global crude trade. Mohammed bin Salman has been looking for years to make Saudi Arabia more like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but foreign firms haven’t really flocked to the Kingdom.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), unveiled one of its latest project to attract tourists to the country by offering “epic adventures” in a park, THE RIG, inspired by offshore oil platforms.

Last autumn, the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said that tax disputes with foreign companies could discourage investments in Saudi Arabia, as multinational enterprises “have experienced tax issues exhibiting a lack of transparency, consistency and due process compared to what they have come to expect from other nations,” according to a letter of the embassy cited by Bloomberg.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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