Saudi Oil Minister Says Women Drivers Will Boost Gasoline Demand

(Bloomberg) -- The end of Saudi Arabia’s driving ban for women will have an impact on the economy and gasoline consumption, the energy minister said.

The oil-rich kingdom will allow women to drive from Sunday, ending its status as the only country in the world to ban half the population from getting behind the wheel.

“There will be more cars on the road,” Khalid Al-Falih said in Vienna, where he was attending an OPEC meeting. "Women will be more empowered and more mobile and I think they will participate more in the job market over time, so I think it’s going to contribute to employment of females in Saudi Arabia. A secondary effect will probably be higher gasoline demand.”

The plan to allow women to drive is one of the most dramatic move in the government’s bid to open up Saudi society and modernize the economy. Yet at the same time, the government has jailed some women who campaigned to drive for years. Saudi Arabia adheres to an austere version of Islam and has curbs on women, barring them from driving and requiring them to have the permission of a male guardian to marry or travel abroad.

When asked if he was looking forward to his daughters being able to drive, Al-Falih said, “absolutely.”

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