Saudi king begins month-long Asia tour amid economic woes

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Kuala Lumpur

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reached on Sunday Malaysia on the first leg of his month-long Asian tour as the kingdom seeks to attract investment in a bid to save its ailing economy hit by low oil prices and rising military expenditure.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak welcomed King Salman, who is said to have been accompanied by a 600-strong delegation, in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
The trip is the first by a Saudi king to Malaysia in more than a decade. Informed sources said that cooperation on energy developments will be on the agenda of King Salman’s visit to the Southeast Asian state.
Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas and Saudi oil giant Aramco are expected to sign an deal to collaborate in Malaysia’s Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project.
A statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said King Salman also plans to visit Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, the Maldives and Jordan “to meet with the leaders of those countries to discuss bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern.”
Back in 2015, Saudi Arabia was dragged into a corruption scandal at Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), founded by Najib. It was further revealed that Saudi Arabia had transferred $681 million into Najib’s personal bank account in 2013.
In January 2016, however, Malaysia’s attorney general cleared Najib of graft allegations, ruling that the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family and most of it was returned. The finances of Saudi Arabia have been hit by falling oil prices. The Saudi economy is also reeling from the costs of its military aggression against neighboring Yemen, where thousands of people have been killed and many more injured.
Last December, King Salman acknowledged that some of the economic measures adopted by the Riyadh regime were “painful,” but they were needed to avert more complicated financial woes. —Agencies

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