Saudi Arabia's civil aviation authority announced a plan to privatize its airports by 2020, as the kingdom looks to diversify its economy to boost non-oil income. The initiative was set to be launched in the first quarter of 2016 with the privatization of the capital's main international airport, said the state-owned General Authority for Civil Aviation. In the second and third quarters of next year, the kingdom plans to privatize the aviation services sector and the information technology system, respectively, it said in a statement issued on the weekend.
All privatized airports and services will be supervised and managed by the Saudi Civil Aviation Company Holding, "which will undertake the privatization of all international, regional and domestic airports" by 2020, it said. The oil-rich kingdom has at least three major international airports in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in addition to a large number of domestic airports in most Saudi cities. The privatization program was aimed at upgrading services by operating on a commercial basis and generating funds for state coffers, said the civil aviation authority. Oil income, which makes up more than 90 percent of the country's public revenues, has plummeted by more than 50 percent due to the sharp fall of crude prices.