Al Arabiya News Channel has conducted an exclusive and first-ever television interview with Prince Mohammed bin Salman – Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, defence minister and head of the council of Economic and Developmental Affairs (CEDA). The wide-ranging taped interview, which is the first-ever given by Prince Mohammed, was aired on Monday, April 25. It coincided with the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Dear brothers and sisters, may God’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you. This is Turki Al-Dakhil, greetings, and welcome to this special interview from Al-Arabiya channel with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. God bless you your Royal Highness.
God bless you. Thank you your Royal Highness for choosing Al-Arabiya channel for carrying out your first interview.
Prince Mohammed: God’s peace be upon you. Al-Arabiya is a very important Arab platform, and the Saudis and Arabs watch this channel all the time. I believe that our message will be sent to the Saudis and the Arab world through this platform.
Turki Al-Dakhil: God willing. Your Royal Highness, allow me to discuss with you today, in this interview, the vision that you adopted today in Saudi Arabia and called “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.” Allow me your Royal Highness to start with the most important question always posed by everyone: Your Royal Highness, you have announced more than once that you will list part of the shares of one of world’s biggest oil companies, Saudi Aramco, so that they are available for IPO, whether in Saudi Arabia or in anywhere else. Everyone is saying that Aramco is for everyone; how were you able to take such a step?
Prince Mohammed: First of all, we are talking today about a vision, and the latter is a road map for our objectives in the fields of development, economy, and other aspects over the next 15 years. A part of it is related to Aramco, but only a small part. It (the vision) includes many contents that should not be limited to Aramco.
There will be no investment, movement or development in any region of the world without the vote of the Saudi Sovereign Fund.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
There is no doubt that Aramco is part of the key elements of this vision, and the rise of the economy and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Offering Aramco has several benefits; most importantly transparency.
People in the past were unpleased with the fact that Aramco’s file and data are undeclared, unclear, and non-transparent. Today, it will become transparent.
If Aramco were to be listed in the market, its lists and everything must be announced as well, and it will be under the supervision of all the Saudi banks, analysts, and thinkers.
All the international banks and the studying and planning centers in the world will supervise Aramco intensively.
Thus, the result is very high control which is not happening today.
Over night. This is not happening today. Today, Aramco is being dealt with as if it were a limited commercial facilities company, and this is very dangerous, when a company of this magnitude is being dealt with as a limited commercial facilities company.
We will offer a share of less than 5% in the market.
Turki Al-Dakhil: On what basis Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, have you determined the share of less than 5%?
Prince Mohammed: First, it is based on the size of Aramco. Aramco’s size is very large, however, the final evaluation has not been done yet, but we expect more than $2 trillion. We are talking about more than seven trillion Saudi Riyals.
If we offer 1% of Aramco, 1% only, it will be the largest IPO in the history of the planet. So, would the global market bear 5% of an Aramco listing?
Turki Al-Dakhil: Is this why you have already said, Your Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that it is possible to have part of Aramco listing in the US market?
Prince Mohammed: Aramco will be listed in the Saudi market, however, we are thinking about having windows for the shares of Aramco outside the Saudi market.
Today, you can buy gold or oil through US Stock-market via funds in the American market allocated for the purchase of a certain commodity, or a certain share.
We have something similar, for example, in the Saudi market there is “Falcom” fund that buys several companies’ shares. Among the ideas is to establish a fund in the US only for buying Aramco shares in Saudi Arabia. This is one of the windows that is very important for attracting liquidity to Aramco trading or other companies trading in the Saudi market.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Well, you will not be breaching the sacred, as some are saying, when you put Aramco’s shares for IPO or part of Aramco’s shares?
Prince Mohammed: This is a very serious problem.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Is it considering Aramco sacred?
Prince Mohammed: Yes, King Abdulaziz and the men who worked with him in all parts of [formation] of the kingdom for the establishment of the state, did not depend on oil and they established the kingdom without oil, and they ran this state without oil, and lived in this state without oil.
They defied the British colonialism where Britain could not take an inch from Saudi Arabia’s land without depending on oil, but depending on men only.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is the relation between that and Aramco?
Prince Mohammed: There is a relation, in the sense that it is as if it were our constitution: the Quran, the Sunnah and then the oil. That is very serious.
We have a case of addiction to oil in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the part of everyone. That issue is serious. It disrupted the development of many sectors in the past years.
Turki Al-Dakhil: But oil is the main commodity that the Saudi economy depends on?
Prince Mohammed: Yes. Oil should be treated as an investment, nothing more, nothing less. It is an investment. It is a company that has a value, an investment.
You must own it as an investment. It should not be owned as a primary commodity or a major source of income.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Therefore, you seek to diversify the sources of income through this vision?
Prince Mohammed: Yes. Aramco has many benefits apart from transparency.
Turki Al-Dakhil: The benefits of the offering of Aramco?
Prince Mohammed: Apart from transparency which is the first benefit, the second benefit is that the Saudi market — when you offer a company of a volume of more than 7 trillion riyals in the Saudi market, this means that the Saudi market will double its volume. There will also be a second wave of the offering in the main company of Aramco and then in the subsidiaries of Aramco. They will be offered again in the market. That also gives the Saudi market a bigger volume.
That is the second benefit. The third and most important benefit is that, technically, after the offering of Aramco, the income of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will transform.
The income of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be generated from investment instead of oil. Technically on paper, our income will be provided by investment.
The remaining issue is about the way to diversify your investments. Your sources, your investment portfolio – most of the properties and assets in it are assets in energy companies. We must diversify that investment through borrowing, engaging in other opportunities, facilitating Aramco, and engaging in other opportunities in order to balance your investment portfolio. That is what will happen in the coming years. It will help increase the volume of your investment portfolio.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Thus, you will offer about five percent of the main company of Aramco or some of the companies of Aramco at the beginning?
Prince Mohammed: Five percent of the main company of Aramco … less than five percent of the main company of Aramco and most of the companies of Aramco.
After that. We will make Aramco a holding company.
There will be no operations in it. The operations will only be carried out in the Aramco-owned companies.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Well. Let me ask you another question, Your Highness. I will move through the question from the talk about Aramco to the Public Investment Fund, which will run Aramco, the offering of Aramco, and the investment in Aramco, considering that it is an investment company. What is the size of the risk that will be pursued by this fund?
Prince Mohammed: What will the size of the risk be if we did not take such a step? Had we not followed this procedure, the risk would have been very high. This is the first point.
The second point is that the Public Investment Fund will not lead Aramco in the future. A board of directors will lead Aramco, and the latter will be elected by the general assembly, which represents the owners of Aramco, whether the fund, citizens, investment institutions. The investors, at home and abroad, they will be buying Aramco. This will lead to a huge leap in the Public Investment Fund.
The preliminary data show that the Fund will take control over more than ten percent of the investment capacity of the globe. The fund will own more than three percent of the assets on earth. We believe that we will be way ahead of this issue because whoever valued this issue said that Aramco will be set to be valued at more than 2 trillion or 2.5 trillion.
However, we believe that it will be set to be valued at a higher number. The Public Investment Fund believes that no assets other than Aramco will be included in the fund.
Aramco is part of the assets. There are also other assets, believed to be real estate, that are divided into several sections. Small and useless assets were transferred to the fund.
Large assets inside the Saudi cities have been transferred to the fund as well. We believe that their development…
Turki Al-Dakhil: Territories?
Prince Mohammed: Territories. Yes, we believe that their (the territories) development will solve part of the problems and crises in the cities, whether in commercial complexes, financial and business complexes, or housing.
There are very large assets, which are areas that have not been developed yet, especially in the tourism field, or others. I believe that the size of these assets will be one trillion riyals.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Are these lands owned by the state?
Prince Mohammed: State-owned lands. Now, we are done with the procedures, and the Public Investment Fund now owns them.
The quick fix in 2016 will be systematic and planned better. The year 2017 will be a part of the vision and the programs starting from the vision.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Turki Al-Dakhil: Therefore, the investment will be done through, for example, building malls and shops, and so on?
Prince Mohammed: No, the fund has nothing to do with malls. The fund size is very large. The fund is about large opportunities. The majority of territories and opportunities are large. The territories will turn into projects and companies, and thus, be publicly listed.
Turki Al-Dakhil: As the head of the Public Investment Fund, and the chairman of the council of economic and development affairs, do you believe that you are running these funds based on a risky policy?
Prince Mohammed: No, we restructured the Public Investment Fund in the past year. Now, only small details remain, and a whole program on the Public Investment Fund will be announced.
Turki Al-Dakhil: How?
Prince Mohammed: How does the fund run the wealth? How does it take decisions? How will the transparency of the fund be according to the governance of the fund, that has to be clear to everyone. I am the chairman of the board of directors of the Public Investment Fund, but I am not the one to take the decision. The board does that, according to the mechanism and governance declared to the public. I cannot take a decision unless it complies with the governance.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Does this mean that no chairman can monopolize decision-making, for example?
Prince Mohammed: Yes, no administration can monopolize decision-making.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Why?
Prince Mohammed: Because there is a board of directors, and there is voting, where the board of directors votes according to the mechanism declared in the governance of Public Investment Fund or the State Fund.
Turki Al-Dakhil: OK, what have you done after restructuring the Fund? What else have you done?
Prince Mohammed: Restructuring the Fund, introducing new assets to the Fund from Aramco and other assets, and resolving some problems about the current assets, owned by Public Investment Fund, whether companies or other projects.
There were faltering projects, so we ended some of them, and restructured projects themselves.
There were other companies owned by the Fund and they were facing problems, so we solved these problems.
This will support these companies and make them more profitable, which will lead to more profits for the Fund.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Some believe that the Fund was run according to a conservative investment policy. Have you overcome this conservative investment policy?
Prince Mohammed: The words conservative and risky are sensitive. The Fund’s decision-making is according to clear study, analysis, and vision, so the decision is well studied.
Therefore, procedures have not changed. In the past the Fund was not working properly, and did not make high profits. Only in 2015, we were able to make profits out of the Fund with nearly SR 30 billion, which led and contributed to raising the non-oil revenues by 35% in 2015. This was in one year only, so is this a conservative policy, or has it achieved additional profits for the government?
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, you have stressed three main axes in the vision that was issued today, although we were not able to read it with deep concentration actually on three main aspects: first, Saudi Arabia is the Arab and Islamic depth as a result of the location of the two Holy Mosques; second, Saudi Arabia has investment capabilities that can drive the economy and constitute additional resources for the country; and third, there is the strategic investment site of Saudi Arabia on the grounds that it is a gateway to the world and links three continents with each other. On what basis have you developed this vision? Is it only on those three pillars?
Prince Mohammed: Of course, a very long debate has been held, in the sense that the human development has to be part of it and that other elements have to be part of it.
The vision is not about the form. The pillars of this vision require you to use your strengths, which you can work on in terms of the date of this vision
Turki Al-Dakhil: and …the time that you have set?
Prince Mohammed: The time that we have set. We have three strengths. We can develop them enormously and exploit them. They are not exploited and no one is competing with us for them.
As for the Arab and Islamic depth, we have the Qiblah of Muslims. We have Medina. We have a very rich Islamic heritage.
We have great Arab depth. The Arabian Peninsula forms the basis of Arabism. The kingdom constitutes a large part of it. That issue has not been exploited in full.
We have a pioneer investment power at the level of the world. Today, you see that many statements are being made, including statements indicating that the Saudi Sovereign Fund will be the largest fund in the world by far, compared to the other funds.
That will be the main engine for the whole world and not only the region. There will be no investment, movement or development in any region of the world without the vote of the Saudi Sovereign Fund.
If the Saudi Sovereign Fund said that the projects of this state would not succeed and that we would not invest in it, this would of course, [would] have a direct effect and vice versa.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be an investment power through its sovereign fund, through the other state-owned funds, and through the most important profession, i.e. the Saudi businessmen.
Yes, we have many businessmen in different industries, but most of the businessmen are in investment companies. The Saudi mentality is an investment one.We must take advantage of it.
We must organize our work and push the Sovereign Fund and the other funds as well as all Saudi companies to be an investment force that will drive the Saudi market and the global market. As for the third aspect which is the geographical location, we have a very special geographical location.
We have the three most important maritime straits in the world. Almost thirty percent of the world’s trade pass through the seas that surround you.
Now, after the King Salman Bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which is perhaps the most important land crossing – it may be the most important land crossing in the world – you will have a major part of the trade between Asia and Africa.
A major part of the trade between Europe and Asia will cross through you. We have great opportunities to create logistic services in aviation, ports, industrial complexes…
That is also part of the linkage.
Yes, or even the business hubs that we will be working on or the linkage between the Gulf countries and Egypt, Jordan and other countries in order to create this very large movement through taking advantage of the geographical location.
That will make many goods of hundreds of billions [of value] pass through Saudi Arabia.
Turki Al-Dakhil: From Asia to Africa and Europe…
Prince Mohammed: Yes. That will make many goods of hundreds of billions of dollars pass. That will create great economic opportunities.
That will create new industries and jobs. And at the same time, it will help the world economy grow. Those are three main pillars of the vision. They are the strengths that you must exploit. We must not focus on other pillars that we are weak at and cannot develop in a significant manner.
I want to take advantage of my strengths until 20 or 30, and then move to another phase.
Turki Al-Dakhil: I will take advantage of all the time with you, but I have to take a short break, if you allow me.
Prince Mohammed: Go ahead.
Turki Al-Dakhil: We will have a short break, brothers and sisters, and then we continue our interview with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Please stay tuned.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Welcome again, dear brothers and sisters, to this special interview, in which we host on Al Arabiya Channel His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince.
Your Highness, before the break, we talked about the vision that you have launched today: The strategic vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 2030.
We talked in the first section about oil, the oil syndrome, and addiction to oil, through the term that you’ve launched today Your Highness. Let me ask you again about oil.
Did you launch this vision because oil prices are low?
Prince Mohammed: No, not at all. This vision was going to be launched, whether the price of oil was high or low.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What if the oil prices rose to more than 70 dollars again?
Prince Mohammed: It has nothing to do with that. This has nothing to do with the vision. It won’t be affected in general. If the oil prices rose, undoubtedly this will be a strong and motivating support because it facilitates many measures, but the vision does not require high oil prices, but it deals with the lowest oil prices.
Turki Al-Dakhil: When do you expect that you won’t need oil revenues, based on the other revenues?
Prince Mohammed: I think that if oil stopped in 2020, we can live. We need it. We need it, but I think in 2020, we can live without oil.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness… In the vision, Your Highness, you focused on the fact that you want to maintain a high living standard.
Prince Mohammed: Yes and to raise the living standard for citizens. This is part of the vision and it requires a strong cooperation by the citizen, to maintain a better and improving living standard.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is expected from the citizen regarding this vision?
Prince Mohammed: Everyone should be working in it. Today we are exerting a great effort to convince everyone, whether in the governmental body, the executive authority, the legislative authority, the judicial authority, citizens, or businessmen. This is our fate as Saudis. Thus, each person must do his role in this vision.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness, within the vision, you referred to a vital community and talked about the development of Hajj and Umrah, in view of more prosperous services that you present, with pride for pilgrims. Today, there are eight million people who come to Saudi Arabia for Umrah every year.
In 2020, you expect that fifteen million will come for Umrah, and in 2030 you expect thirty million for Umra, so, how will you reach these figures?
Prince Mohammed: We believe that some of the infrastructure is already there. The new Jeddah Airport will serve this vision in a very big way, Al-Taif Airport will also serve this vision in a very big way, as it will receive large numbers, and accommodate these numbers. The infrastructure of Makkah is strong. Haramin Train will support these figures. Now, we are trying to finish the Makkah Metro as soon as possible.
Turki Al-Dakhil: You have also referred to an expansion in the Two Holy Mosques.
Prince Mohammed: Yes, this is very important, so the infrastructure… is available, and we only need simple things to support this matter. There are many pieces of land surrounding the Grand Mosque, and they are owned by the government and the citizens. We will invest in them for the accommodation of these large numbers. So I do not think there is a challenge.
I believe it is only a matter of procedures, and organization of work and achieving it.
Turki Al-Dakhil: As we are talking about procedures, Your Royal Highness Prince Mohammed, you have talked in the vision about bureaucracy, and in many press interviews you have said that you are an enemy of bureaucracy.
Is it easy for a person to become the enemy of bureaucracy in one year?
Prince Mohammed: Of course, we are the enemies of negative bureaucracy. What is the meaning of bureaucracy? It means the organization of work. If there is no bureaucracy, there will be chaos, and tent management. We want a quick bureaucracy which helps decision-making and decision-implementation on time.
The King acted very strongly and shook the top of the pyramid of the executive authority in order to have quick results at the beginning of his rule.
He did a cabinet reshuffle, and restructured the top of the pyramid of the government through the establishment of two councils, and the cancellation of many councils.
He cancelled the security, political, economic, and development councils.
This greatly helped in creating a top of the pyramid that works quickly and effectively to achieve what we want today.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Well, during a year and a few months since the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman assumed power, what is the percentage of your achieved ambitions in the government?
Prince Mohammed: Of course, 2015 was a “Quick Fix” year.
We cannot wait for a plan to start the fixing. We have problems and current opportunities, so we cannot wait for the planning. The year 2015 witnessed quick fix but the quick fix in 2016 will be systematic and planned better. The year 2017 will be a part of the vision and the programs starting from the vision.
Turki Al-Dakhil: You also allocated a part of the vision for culture and entertainment, but many people do not understand what is the purpose of entertainment; what do you want to offer the Saudi people from the issue of entertainment?
Prince Mohammed: When we talk about entertainment and the standard of living, the income level in Saudi Arabia is one of the best in the world, but what is the problem?
The problem is that there are no tools to spend this income in a way that will reflect on the Saudi’s well-being in life. Other countries have lower levels of income and economic statuses, but the standards of living are good because there are good recreational and cultural opportunities, and a good environment that allow the citizens, whose incomes are low, to spend the money and enjoy doing so.
Entertainment and culture are very important to change the standard of living of a Saudi citizen in a short period of time.
Turki Al-Dakhil: You mentioned that you will open the largest Islamic museum in the world, and that you will make sure to register the Saudi archaeological sites in the UNESCO.
Prince Mohammed: -True.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Do you have a new policy regarding the museums, tourism, and so?
Prince Mohammed: Is it possible that the most important Islamic country does not have an Islamic Museum in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Is this possible? When a non-Muslim visits Saudi Arabia to get to know more about Islam, he or she would not find any center or museum to enrich his or her culture in Islam through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This is illogical, and this indicates the scarcity of cultural services that we need in Saudi Arabia to make use of your strength. As for the other fields, many say that the history of the Arabian Peninsula is very short, only 1400 years are linked to the Islamic history. However, the Islamic history, without a doubt, is the most important pillar. We have a great historical depth that witnessed many civilizations.
The Arab history, has been for thousands of years the history of the word, principles, and values, and no other history or civilization in the world can stand in its face. The best civilization of values and principles is the Arab culture, which dates back to thousands of years. This is the first point.
The second point is that part of the European civilizations is found in Saudi Arabia. The European civilizations have very important sites inside Saudi Arabia, as well as an important component of civilization inside Saudi Arabia. We have very important civilizations that date back to more than thousands of years.
They are deeper than any other civilization. This is part of a mixture of civilizations in Saudi Arabia. We must use these civilizations in a way or another.
Turki Al-Dakhil: This means that you will widely open the door for tourism for all nationalities?
Prince Mohammed: No doubt. In accordance with our values and beliefs.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness, let me ask you a question that is very close to this issue, which you have discussed in your press interviews, on this subject. You said that you have the idea of the so-called “Green card”, which is a somehow residence of other nationalities to be [inaudible] You didn’t explain this issue sufficiently. Could you please explain the idea please?
Prince Mohammed: [inaudible] In the government, we focus on two types of income sources: the first is the investment and the second is the one of the non-oil revenues, which have nothing to do with the investment, whether the fees or other governmental measures.
In the previous period, we worked extensively on the targeted revenues by the Saudi government. We have reached more than seventy items of these revenues. If we target these 70 items, we expect to achieve more than 1.5 trillion Riyals.
However, if we targeted the 70 items, they undoubtedly have economic effects that may lead to economic recession, and consequences in inflation, which might have a significant impact on the high levels of inflation.
Turki Al-Dakhil: If they were targeted at once?
Prince Mohammed: If we targeted them all. They will have political and social consequences. We only targeted a quarter of these items in the additional revenues, which have no negative political or economic consequences, or excessive consequences in the inflation or social consequences.
One of these items is the “Green card”, which has benefits to create…
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is the idea of the “Green card”?
Prince Mohammed: We have a lot of non-Saudis foreigners, whether Muslims or Arabs, who live for long periods in Saudi Arabia, for ten or twenty years. Some of them are settled inside Saudi Arabia.
They suffocate any revenue to Saudi Arabia, and all their money is sent abroad, but they prefer to be part of the Saudi economy… of the social and economic system. If we gave them a part of the rights, in life, investment, movement, this will be a support…
Turki Al-Dakhil: You mean citizenship rights Your Highness?
Prince Mohammed: Not citizenship rights. Rights to move inside Saudi Arabia, this will give a strong support to the state’s revenues. It will strongly support the Saudi economy and will create a lot of opportunities.
Turki Al-Dakhil: When do you expect that you will apply this?
Prince Mohammed: During the coming five years.
We are living in a society where it is difficult not to be transparent, and it is difficult to hide a secret from the society in the modern age.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Turki Al-Dakhil: Well, Your Highness the Prince, allow me to ask you about this strategy, which you have given the name Vision 2030. Are there plans from now until fifteen years, for example, five years plan, ten years plan, and fourteen years plan?
Prince Mohammed: Of course, we will re-experience the five years plan based on what is in line with the Vision.
However, under the Vision there will be several programs representing the Vision. The Vision does not have any thing “Technical” nor executive programs, but it is a “Vision” for 15 years, after that we will launch programs to achieve this Vision, including programs for restructuring Public Investment Fund, restructuring Aramco, national transformation, international strategic partnership, and other programs that will achieve this Vision.
Most of the programs will be five years term programs, where we will achieve the first wave of work and Vision in the five coming years, and then we will start other programs for the following five years.
Turki Al-Dakhil: The Vision has very beautiful and great ideas. However, how will you guarantee the application of these ideas? How will you establish control over their implementation, so that they will not be ink on paper only?
Prince Mohammed: Today, we have a very high level of governance at the top of the pyramid. Council of Economic Affairs has a “PMO” and Council of Political Affairs has…
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is PMO, excuse me?
Prince Mohammed: Project Management Office. Council of Political Affairs has a PMO. The King has issued a decision for establishing government performance evaluation center.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is the job of this center?
Prince Mohammed: Its job lies in recording all plans and targets, and then turning them into numbers, in addition to periodic performance evaluation every quarter of the year for the work of government’s bodies, government’s plans, and government’s programs and the achievement of goals. The center will check for any error every quarter of the year…
Turki Al-Dakhil: How will decisions be taken?
Prince Mohammed: Yes, the report will be submitted to the Council of Ministers every quarter of the year, and wherever there is an error, it will be addressed by appropriate means.
Turki Al-Dakhil: You have always talked about boosting transparency, so what do you want to do, in particular, to boost transparency?
Prince Mohammed: Today, we are living in a society where it is difficult not to be transparent, and it is difficult to hide a secret from the society in the modern age.
It is very important to provide information to everyone including citizens, private sector, and the public so as to be part of the discussion and dialogue taking place inside their homeland.
Transparency is required because it is a very strong supportive element for censorship, government’s decisions and government’s procedures.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the economic and development council, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, how will achieving the strategy affect government spending? Will it increase government spending? Will it reduce government spending?
Your Highness, we will go for a break now, and then we will have time for your answer.
Dear brothers and sisters, we will go for a short break, after which we will continue our interview with Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Al Arabiya Channel in this special interview. So stay with us.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Welcome back dear brothers and sisters to this special interview with His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he is telling us about the strategic plan of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Vision 2030 launched today.
Your Highness the Prince, before the break I asked you a question, how will the implementation of this strategy affect the government spending? Will it increase government spending? Will it reduce government spending?
Prince Mohammed: The very positive advantage is that achieving the vision does not require high government spending. It only needs organization and restructuring a lot of sectors, as well as government spending.
The latter is minor and not high. A part of the procedure to control the government spending was done in 2015, and the results were very positive, and no one, whether inside or outside Saudi Arabia, expected such outcomes.
Now, we are carrying out many actions to restructure many sectors in the Ministry of Finance and the preparation of the budget as well. We believe that we will need two years to be done with this issue.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Will this have an impact on the infrastructure, on the short and medium terms?
Prince Mohammed: All the infrastructure projects are ongoing, and nothing will stop.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Okay. Your Royal Highness, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, does the strategic plan involve the Saudi human resources development?
Prince Mohammed: Yes, without a doubt. First, we must pay tribute to all Saudis. We have wonderful Saudi capabilities, especially the young generation, who have strong energy, courage, high culture, and strong professionalism. We only need to work. We are working to achieve the Saudi Arabia that we want in the future.
However, this does not mean that we have to focus on how to educate, train, and develop our next generations. This is a very important factor.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is the Saudi Arabia that you seek to achieve in the future? Tomorrow’s Saudi Arabia?
Prince Mohammed: We are not looking for another Saudi Arabia; all our concern is to deal with the problems of housing and unemployment. This is our ambition as Saudis. The opportunities before us are more important than this issue.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What about reducing these issues?
Prince Mohammed: Our ambition will take over these problems, whether the unemployment, housing, or other problems. We seek to develop our economy and create an attractive and perfect environment in our homeland.
We seek to be proud of our country, and allow the latter to contribute to the development of the world, whether on the economic, environmental, civilizational, or intellectual levels.
This is our ambition, and we are ready to offer a lot to Saudi Arabia and to the world. Our ambition will take over the problems we are facing, God willing, in the coming years.
You also referred to the problem of housing, within the strategy, and to the health problem; you said, for example, on the health level, you are seeking to increase the life expectancy from 74 to 80 years in Saudi Arabia?
Prince Mohammed: It is true. No doubt that the average age of 74 is good compared to other countries in the world, but we want to progress in all fields including health, and this is one of the indicators to measure the quality of health in any other country.
The very positive advantage is that achieving the vision does not require high government spending. It only needs organization and restructuring a lot of sectors,
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Turki Al-Dakhil: The well-being of living. With regard to housing, you say Your Highness, that 47 percent of Saudis own houses. Do you intend to raise it to 52 percent in 2020? Does this percentage satisfy you?
Prince Mohammed: Of course, there is a huge challenge that this percentage will not decrease. Today those who enter into the housing market, and to the demand in the housing market, are very numerous.
We are talking about 70 percent of Saudis who are below 30 years, and thus it is a huge demand. Therefore, if we only keep on the 47 percent, it will be a big achievement. But regardless, we plan and have an ambition to increase this percentage during the five coming years.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What will you do to increase it?
Prince Mohammed: Government support is undoubtedly a part, and lending is another. But opportunities available in the restructuring of the housing sector are the real change in the housing sector.
Today, the Housing Ministry is working on many plans in order to restructure several sectors related to housing, and most prominent of which are land fees, the sale of real estate on the map, bank procedures, financing procedures, borrowing procedures…
All these measures, and the restructuring of several areas in the housing sector, will contribute to raising the percentage of ownership of housing.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Well. Your Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, you have referred to many issues in the strategic vision, for example, you said that you will decrease the unemployment rate from eleven to six percent, to seven percent. Will that be done through? the projects that will result from this vision?
Prince Mohammed: It is true.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Do you focus, for example, with regard to reducing the unemployment on boosting the efficiency of the Saudi labor?
Prince Mohammed: It is true.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What will you do?
Prince Mohammed: We want to work on the method of preparing the Saudi worker or employee to enter the labor market. We have partnerships with many entities in the private sector, companies in the private sector, and companies that are largely owned by the government or the private sector in order to create rehabilitation programs for their entry to the labor market.
The output of the educational system and linking it to themarket needs and the future vision – especially for next year – will also be very crucial for preparing the Saudis to enter the labor market or for any procedures in this regard.
Turki Al-Dakhil: There is an issue that was raised in the past few days, Your Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is related to the government subsidies to goods and services. That is a concern for the Saudi citizen. Your Highness, you have said that there are future plans to rationalize subsidies, but they will not affect the people on limited incomes. How will you define this category: the people on limited incomes?
Prince Mohammed: That is a challenge. What proves that it is a difficult challenge is the failure of the Ministry of Water in accomplishing the restructuring of subsidies to water.
Turki Al-Dakhil: It is a difficult challenge that resulted in the sacking of the Minister of Water?
Prince Mohammed: It is true. But that does not mean that we should not work. We must work. When we open the lists of 2015, we will find that seventy percent of the subsidies go to the rich. That is not permissible. The income should go to the people on average and below-average incomes, who constitute thirty percent.
Turki Al-Dakhil: It is supposed?
Prince Mohammed: It is supposed … But seventy percent, such as me and you, Turki, and other people …
Turki Al-Dakhil: No, I am not with you. You have your own category. I am one of the people who expect to receive subsidies.
Prince Mohammed: Do not let me say on television what you have, Turki! But we do not deserve subsidies… The people who deserve and need subsidies are those who are on average incomes and less.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness, how do the wealthy class … You are saying that they are the ones who benefit. How does that happen?
Prince Mohammed: Because he has a bigger house, he consumes more electricity and more water. The value is cheaper, he has five cars and six cars. He consumes more fuel.
He has a farm other than the house that consumes more electricity and water. He may have a house in another city that consumes more water and electricity. The rich man consumes electricity as much as ten other families or 20 other families. This is unacceptable. The goal is how to restructure support and liberalize prices, and how we could make another program that does not affect the 30%, and compensate them, in other ways, for…
Turki Al-Dakhil: Who are the 30%?
Prince Mohammed: Those who earn average income or less, so that they will not be affected by the restructuring of support, which should affect the 70% only.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Do you have, Your Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for instance, special programs to provide governmental support for this category, i.e. the low income category, in oil derivatives, in water and electricity?
Prince Mohammed: The challenge is very difficult. We spent a whole year trying to work these programs. We expect that in late 2016 the vision will be much clearer. That is why there won’t be a significant liberation in energy prices, unless with the presence of a clear program that covers…
Turki Al-Dakhil: To support limited income categories?
Prince Mohammed: Yes, the average and limited income categories. We do not need as well to target people with average income. We want to preserve the average income and limited income people in the program of support.
Turki Al-Dakhil: In your statements, Your Highness Prince Mohammed, you reiterated that governmental support, be it in water, electricity or oil derivatives, benefit rich people who are not supposed to benefit from it. Don’t you fear that this rich category will be angered by this policy?
Prince Mohammed: I will apply it to myself, and those who fail to accept are free to clash with people in the streets.
Turki Al-Dakhil: it will be applied to all categories,
Prince Mohammed: Yes.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Whether ministers, princes, all groups?
Prince Mohammed: Yes.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Can we consider this a promise from your Highness today?
Prince Mohammed: This is not a promise, it should be so.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Okay, within the governmental strategy you announced today, you talked about mining. You said, we, in the field of mining, aim to have ninety thousand jobs, and gain ninety seven billion Riyals annually, how will you achieve this goal?
Prince Mohammed: Undoubtedly, the mining sector creates jobs very largely. We have very high chances in mining. We have six percent of uranium reserves in the globe,and this is another oil.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Unexploited?
Prince Mohammed: Completely unexploited. Gold, silver, copper, uranium, phosphate, silica and other minerals. Only 3 or 5 percent were exploited and wrongly. This situation is creating a huge industrial market and revenues for the country, (as well as) Support for the economy and jobs.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness the Prince, you mentioned in the strategy, the issue of military industries, and you said that 2 percent of military equipment are bought from inside.
Prince Mohammed: The goal is to buy military equipment up to 50 percent from the inside and manufactured in Saudi Arabia. Is it reasonable that in 2014, Saudi Arabia was the largest fourth country in the world, and the largest third country in 2015 in terms of military spending; while we don’t have industry inside Saudi Arabia?
Turki Al-Dakhil: Military industry?
Prince Mohammed: Yes, we spend more than Britain, and France, and don’t have industry. We have a strong demand that we should meet inside Saudi Arabia, which is the demand on the military industries.
If we can raise this percentage to 30 or 50 percent, we will create a new huge industrial sector, will support [the] economy very strongly, and will create many jobs and I think it is a challenge. We are only restructuring many military deals to be linked to Saudi manufacturing.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What is meant by restructuring?
Prince Mohammed: Now, it is a part of the launched policies that the Ministry of Defense or other security and military bodies make deals with any foreign body only if linked to local industry.
We are now in the process of establishing a holding company for military industries; which is 100% for the government. It will be later in the Saudi market, also for “transparency”, so a citizen can know the military deals, the company’s performance, sales, deals, and industries very clearly and highly. We achieved a great progress in establishing this company. We still have simple things to do.
We think it will be launched in late or early 2017 with more details. We also have a problem in the military spending. It is not reasonable when we are the third or fourth largest country in the world in terms of military spending and our army is evaluated in twenties. There is something wrong.
Turki Al-Dakhil: This statement is made by the Defense Minister.
Prince Mohammed: Undoubtedly, There is imbalance. For example, when I enter a base in Saudi Arabia, I find the ground is made of marble, walls are ornamented, and finished with high quality. When I enter a base in America, I see no ceiling, the ground is neither furnished with carpets nor made of marble, but only concrete and practical.
There is very high waste in spending; which will give us an opportunity to raise the level of security services and the Saudi army, and to reduce spending in the military and security fields.
We spend more than Britain, and France, and don’t have industry. We have a strong demand, that we should meet inside Saudi Arabia, which is the demand on the military industries
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Turki Al-Dakhil: Good. Your Highness Prince, I don’t have much time (left). I would like to ask you the question that is going in the minds of many Saudis. Are you satisfied with the performance of the Anti-corruption commission?
Prince Mohammed: If the King and His Crown Prince were satisfied with the performance of the department of combating corruption, the Chairman of the Anti-corruption Commission wouldn’t be changed, a year ago. The head of the Anti-corruption Commission was changed a year ago.
It means that the King and His Crown Prince were not satisfied. Without a doubt, corruption exists in all societies, and governments, with varying levels.
What is important for us today is to be in the forefront of countries, which are combating corruption, and to have the lowest rates of corruption in the world.
Turki Al-Dakhil: What will you do to reach this stage?
Prince Mohammed: Privatization is a very important part, such as the military industries, the proposed company in the market. I do not watch, the people are watching. When Aramco is proposed in the market, the people are watching.
For Aramco, the international institution observes when more data is issued in the budgets declarations, there is a high level of control. The company is not pursuing the corrupt people, as much as it is restructuring many procedures, which will make corruption harder.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Your Highness, the Prince, thank you.
Prince Mohammed: God bless you.
Turki Al-Dakhil: Thank you, brothers and sisters for watching this exclusive interview with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz. We will see you in another exclusive interview. I leave you in God’s care and protection.
Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings.