Saudi Prince's Plan: End Kingdom's 'Oil Addiction'

Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to boost global investment, get away from reliance on oil
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2016 1:37 PM CDT
Saudi Prince's Plan: End Kingdom's 'Oil Addiction'
In this May 14, 2012, file photo, Prince Mohammed bin Salman waits for Gulf Arab leaders ahead of the opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Saudi Arabia's 30-year-old deputy crown prince is looking toward the future with his new "Vision 2030" plan—a plan that includes pulling the kingdom out of its overreliance on oil and leaning more on non-oil investment to transform it into a global power, Reuters reports. "We will not allow our country ever to be at the mercy of commodity price volatility or external markets," Prince Mohammed bin Salman told reporters gathered at a Riyadh palace Monday. Per Gulf News, he had earlier appeared in a televised al-Arabiya interview, noting, "We have developed a case of oil addiction in Saudi Arabia. … I think by 2020, if oil stops we can survive." Also part of his new blueprint: including women more in the economy and appealing to young people who face the prospect of not finding jobs. The BBC notes that more than 70% of the kingdom's revenue came from oil in 2015, but oil prices continue to plummet and Saudi Arabia's economy is suffering, per Al Jazeera.

In broad terms, the prince would like to bring up its Public Investment Fund (PIF) capital to $2 trillion from $160 billion. Prince Mohammed says 5% of shares in the Aramco oil company would be sold to fund this $2 trillion nest (which he thinks could even rise to $3 trillion). Also part of the prince's game plan: setting up a "green card" system in five years' time to expedite Muslim and Arab expatriates' long-term residency, as well as boosting affordable housing and getting more women into the workforce. The founder of the DC-based Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee tells Al Jazeera this a "visionary move," but another Saudi expert says he's seen similar changes proposed before. "To implement some of these, you need the collaboration of society," he notes. "For example, if you want to increase the empowerment of women, you need to liberalize your society." (What the prince didn't bring up: The kingdom's possible ties to 9/11.)

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