Reforming Saudi foreign direct investment laws
: the legal impact, challenges and prospects

  • Farhan Al-Farhan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The purpose of this study is to critically examine the legal ramifications of Foreign Direct Investment (FOI) in Saudi Arabia, its connection with the energy sector, and to suggest techniques to bring about a reform in the implementation of FOI from a legal perspective.Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves. This fact presents the Kingdom with unprecedented opportunities for growth, development and technological, social and economic
breakthrough. Oil, its production, sale, regulation and the investment opportunities it affords therefore, is central to any meaningful examination of the future of the Saudi State and indeed the sub region. It is the contention of this thesis that despite the importance of oil and the investment it attracts to the Saudi Arabian economy the country's long and short-term policies remain in a state of underdevelopment. The central task of this thesis, therefore, is to identify the many shortcomings of the Saudi Arabia regulatory system in the area of energy law and international laws as well as international relations and place them in the context of doctrinal analysis that reflect the growing demand for progressive, meaningful and drastic changes.The thesis attempts a holistic diagnosis of the pertinent areas of law, politics and international relations and suggests a drastic root and branch transformation of Saudi Arabia's national policies and even constitutional reforms. The hypothesis that was tested is that there are along list of identifiable and necessary regulatory framework changes which will enable Saudi Arabia to progress and move the country forward to an enviable status in the international society but that this can only take place when Saudi Arabia ensures that its constitutional and other laws allow it to meaningfully comply with international laws (broadly construed) and practice.
The thesis adopts the doctrinal framework of critical legal studies and socio-Iegal scholarship in taking positions across a host of crucial reform areas including environmental, human rights, foreign direct investment law and resource exploitation. Specifically the thesis critiques the perceived negative aspects of Saudi Arabian law as well as the inadequacies and inequities of international foreign direct investment law and practice but, on the whole, the thesis takes the bold position that it is more in line with the true national interest and profitable development of the Saudi Arabian state when dealing with matters of international trade and investment to embrace a liberalised legal system free from the religious influence and which is compatible to pertinent international norms.
Principal solutions advanced include the need for constitutional changes in the direction of better democratisation and liberalisation of the polity as a means of further unlocking the potentials of the populace and to facilitate wider participation in business and investment. The scope for massive improvements in professional training and skill developments in areas such as investment law, arbitration and dispute resolution is discussed as well as recommended changes to specific legal regimes of law which will guarantee respect for rights of the ordinary citizens and of investors. The thesis thus provides a blueprint for the transformation of the country in order to attain holistic development and transform Saudi Arabia into a favourite investment destination in numerous sectors but particularly in oil and gas.
Date of AwardMar 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMunir Maniruzzaman (Supervisor) & Roger Welch (Supervisor)

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