News Updates

Mohammed bin Salman’s programme of consensual change

Saudi Arabia will soon become “a place for dreamers who want to do something in the world”. That was the striking pledge made by the kingdom’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to a gathering of investors from across the world in Riyadh on Tuesday. Even the most implacable critics of Saudi Arabia will have to concede a new dawn has broken. For change in Saudi Arabia is being ushered in by a young man working under the watchful gaze of his father, King Salman, whose receptiveness to the aspirations of his country’s young is matched only by his determination to build a future worthy of them.

A string of enhancements to culture and society have been introduced in the past few months, including the announcement of an entertainment city south of Riyadh in April. This was followed by an historic decision in September to overturn the long-standing ban on female drivers in the kingdom. Sweeping social transformation has been has been accompanied by thorough and detailed plans to diversify the economy and make it less reliant on oil revenues.

Vision 2030, a brainchild of Prince Mohammed, is the blueprint for Saudi Arabia’s modernisation. The kingdom is turning a 200-kilometre stretch of its coastline on the Red Sea into a semi-autonomous tourist haven as part of the plan. When completed, it is estimated to create upwards of 35,000 jobs and bring in 15 billion riyals (Dhs14.7bn) in revenues annually. This colossal project, however, is only one part of Vision 2030, whose crowning glory will be NEOM, a $500 billion business and industrial zone on the Gulf of Aqaba that will extend into Jordan and Egypt. Part financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and Japan’s Softbank, NEOM, when finished, will be a transnational avatar of Dubai: a hub of innovation, and a gateway to and embodiment of the future.

On Tuesday, Prince Mohammed drew applause and cheers when he announced that Saudi Arabia will soon embrace a “moderate Islam that’s open to all religions”. Extremism will not be spared. “We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today”. What Prince Mohammed is superintending might be called a “consensual revolution”; what we are witnessing is epoch-making transformation without any of the chaos that usually accompanies change. That can be explained, in part, by the willingness of the leadership to engage with and understand the needs and wishes of the young people who collectively represent the kingdom’s future

It is important to note that Saudi Arabia’s focus on its own future has not distracted it from its sense of obligation to others. On the same day as Prince Mohammed was sharing his vision, Riyadh’s foreign minister, Adel Al Jubeir, emphasised his country’s commitment to bringing stability to the region. The self-confidence radiating from a fast modernising Saudi Arabia can only strengthen the Middle East.

Source: https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/editorial/mohammed-bin-salman-s-programme-of-consensual-change-1.670286

Crown prince pledges ‘moderate’ Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged a “moderate, open” Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, October 24, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favor of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.

The Saudi strongman, 32, did not mince words in declaring a new reality for the kingdom, hours after announcing the launch of an independent $500 billion megacity – with “separate regulation” – along the Red Sea coastline.

“We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness,” he told international investors gathered at an economic forum in Riyadh.

“Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under 30, and honestly we will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today and at once,” the crown prince said.

One of the Saudi millennials in attendance was Abdul Aziz, a 27-year-old policy consultant.

He lauded the young prince for “pushing the boundaries of what’s possible” in the rigid kingdom and for using the televised speech to highlight what he sees as an abandoned legacy of moderation.

“It showed the political and social change in Saudi Arabia is not a transformation. Saudi Arabia is going back to its original roots of a moderate Islam, a tolerant society,” Abdul Aziz told Agence France-Presse.

Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, said he would see to it his country moved past 1979, a reference to the rise of political Islam in the years following the assassination of King Faisal in 1975.

The early 1970s had ushered major change into the oil-rich kingdom, including the introduction of television and schools for girls.

But that came to a halt as the Al-Sheikh family, which controls religious and social regulation in the kingdom, and the ruling Al-Saud family slowly reinforced the conservative policies Riyadh is known for.

Prince Mohammed’s statement Tuesday is the most direct attack by a Saudi official on the Gulf country’s influential conservative religious circles, whose stranglehold on Saudi society now appears to face serious challenges.

‘Return to what was’

“We are returning to what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions, traditions and people around the globe,” he said.

While the Saudi government continues to draw criticism from international rights groups, the crown prince has pushed ahead with reforms since his sudden appointment on June 21.

Monitors, including Amnesty International, say Saudi Arabia has in parallel stepped up its repression of peaceful rights activists.

Saudi authorities last month arrested more than 20 activists, including two popular Muslim preachers, without disclosing any charges against them.

But the young prince is widely regarded as being the force behind King Salman’s decision last month to lift a decades-long ban prohibiting women from driving.

Prince Mohammed’s comments came hours after the opening of the Future Investment Initiative, a 3-day economic conference that drew some 2,500 dignitaries, including 2,000 foreign investors, to Riyadh.

Earlier Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – controlled by MBS – announced the launch of an independent economic zone along the kingdom’s northwestern coastline.

The project, dubbed NEOM, will operate under regulations separate from those that govern the rest of Saudi Arabia.

Stephen Potter, vice chairman of the Chicago-based wealth management company Northern Trust, said he was impressed by the crown prince’s vision.

“It sends out a strong message to not just Saudis but the whole world that the kingdom is poised for change,” Potter said.

A Saudi attendee was more skeptical.

“Looks very impressive on paper but we’ll have to see how it is executed,” he told Agence France-Presse, declining to be named. – Rappler.com

Source: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/middle-east/186303-crown-prince-pledges-moderate-saudi-arabia

I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return the country to “moderate Islam” and asked for global support to transform the hardline kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors.

In an interview with the Guardian, the powerful heir to the Saudi throne said the ultra-conservative state had been “not normal” for the past 30 years, blaming rigid doctrines that have governed society in a reaction to the Iranian revolution, which successive leaders “didn’t know how to deal with”.

Expanding on comments he made at an investment conference at which he announced the launch of an ambitious $500bn (£381bn) independent economic zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, Prince Mohammed said: “We are a G20 country. One of the biggest world economies. We’re in the middle of three continents. Changing Saudi Arabia for the better means helping the region and changing the world. So this is what we are trying to do here. And we hope we get support from everyone.

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.”

Earlier Prince Mohammed had said: “We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70% of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”

The crown prince’s comments are the most emphatic he has made during a six-month reform programme that has tabled cultural reforms and economic incentives unimaginable during recent decades, during which the kingdom has been accused of promoting a brand of Islam that underwrote extremism.

The comments were made as the heir of the incumbent monarch moves to consolidate his authority, sidelining clerics whom he believes have failed to support him and demanding unquestioning loyalty from senior officials whom he has entrusted to drive a 15-year reform programme that aims to overhaul most aspects of life in Saudi Arabia.

Central to the reforms has been the breaking of an alliance between hardline clerics who have long defined the national character and the House of Saud, which has run affairs of state. The changes have tackled head-on societal taboos such as the recently rescinded ban on women driving, as well as scaling back guardianship laws that restrict women’s roles and establishing an Islamic centre tasked with certifying the sayings of the prophet Muhammed.

A woman sits behind the wheel of a car in Riyadh last month.
 A woman sits behind the wheel of a car in Riyadh last month. Photograph: STR/EPA

The scale and scope of the reforms has been unprecedented in the country’s modern history and concerns remain that a deeply conservative base will oppose what is effectively a cultural revolution – and that the kingdom lacks the capacity to follow through on its economic ambitions.

The new economic zone is to be established on 470km of the Red Sea coast, in a tourist area that has already been earmarked as a liberal hub akin to Dubai, where male and female bathers are free to mingle.

It has been unveiled as the centrepiece of efforts to turn the kingdom away from a near total dependence on oil and into a diverse open economy. Obstacles remain: an entrenched poor work ethic, a crippling regulatory environment and a general reluctance to change.

A promotional video for Neom, a new economic zone on the Red Sea coast

“Economic transformation is important but equally essential is social transformation,” said one of the country’s leading businessmen. “You cannot achieve one without the other. The speed of social transformation is key. It has to be manageable.”

Alcohol, cinemas and theatres are still banned in the kingdom and mingling between unrelated men and women remains frowned upon. However Saudi Arabia – an absolute monarchy – has clipped the wings of the once-feared religious police, who no longer have powers to arrest and are seen to be falling in line with the new regime.

Economically Saudi Arabia will need huge resources if it is to succeed in putting its economy on a new footing and its leadership believes it will fail to generate strategic investments if it does not also table broad social reforms.

Prince Mohammed had repeatedly insisted that without establishing a new social contract between citizen and state, economic rehabilitation would fail. “This is about giving kids a social life,” said a senior Saudi royal figure. “Entertainment needs to be an option for them. They are bored and resentful. A woman needs to be able to drive herself to work. Without that we are all doomed. Everyone knows that – except the people in small towns. But they will learn.”

A screengrab from the promotional video for Saudi Arabia’s new economic zone.
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 A screengrab from the promotional video for Saudi Arabia’s new economic zone. Photograph: YouTube

In the next 10 years, at least five million Saudis are likely to enter the country’s workforce, posing a huge problem for officials who currently do not have jobs to offer them or tangible plans to generate employment.

The economic zone is due to be completed by 2025 – five years before the current cap on the reform programme – and is to be powered by wind and solar energy, according to its founders.

The country’s enormous sovereign wealth fund is intended to be a key backer of the independent zone. It currently has $230bn under management. The sale of 5% of the world’s largest company, Aramco, is expected to raise several hundred billion dollars more.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince

US treasury secretary Mnuchin back Saudi Vision 2030

The United States treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin gave his government’s strong and clear support to recent announcements by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in an address given at the Future Investment Initiative being held in Riyadh.

Referring to the public statements by crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, chairman of the Public Investment Fund, Mnuchin said that the call for moderation and tolerance will lead Saudi Arabia to a “brighter future” and that NEOM was an impressive new pillar in the country’s development plans.

Beforehand, he reiterated the United States’ strong support to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform programme stating that the US stood fully with the kingdom as it lays out a new and successful pathway for its economy.

The treasury secretary made his comments after he attended the official opening of the new International Centre for Targeting Terrorist Financing, which will be co-chaired by the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Mnuchin referred to this initiative as being one of the critical policies and initiatives of the Trump administration and noted that Saudi Arabia’s leading role in its development will be instrumental in securing its success.

Powered by the Public Investment Fund, the Future Investment Initiative is taking take place from October 24th-26th in Riyadh.

The invitation-only event is being organised in the context of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Source: http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/news/article/us-treasury-secretary-mnuchin-back-saudi-vision-2030/

Saudi Public Investment Fund unveils Program 2018-2020 in Riyadh

The Public Investment Fund Program 2018-2020 has today been launched as the latest constituent of the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 Vision Realisation Programs.

The PIF Program is one of twelve Vision Realisation Programs, and acts as a roadmap for the next three years to strengthen the organisation’s position as the engine behind economic diversification in the kingdom.

Furthermore, the program underpins PIF’s role in supporting a crucial component of the Vision 2030 agenda, to transform Saudi Arabia into a global investment powerhouse.

The four key objectives underpinning the program include growing and maximising PIF assets; launching new sectors; localising advanced technologies and knowledge; and building strategic economic partnerships.

Over the past two years, the PIF Board – chaired by crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud – has undertaken a wide range of actions to drive forward the transformation of PIF as it develops into one of the world’s leading and most impactful sovereign wealth funds.

These activities include developing expertise and more than tripling the size of the fund’s staff to around 200, while undertaking major reforms to the fund’s investment, governance, legal, risk and compliance and finance functions.

The newly-launched PIF Program outlines how the Fund aims to complement private sector development in the kingdom through its new domestic investment pools, split between the fund’s Saudi Holdings, Saudi Sector Development, Saudi Real Estate & Infrastructure Development, and Saudi Giga-Projects pools.

The scale of ambition attached to the fund’s domestic pools is evidenced by the announcement of the NEOM Project, the Red Sea Project, and the Al Qidiya Project, as well as the establishment of nine companies focused on launching promising new sectors in the kingdom, including the Saudi Arabian Military Industries company, the Fund of Funds, and the Saudi Real Estate Refinancing Company.

The PIF Program, which is underpinned by 30 separate initiatives, will see the fund’s assets under management increase to SAR 1.5 trillion (over $400 billion) by 2020, creating 20,000 direct domestic jobs, more than half of which are high-skilled roles, and 256,000 construction jobs, which will increase PIF’s contribution to real GDP from 4.4 per cent to 6.3 per cent, and increase the share of local content to SAR 50 billion (over $13 billion).

Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, said: “The PIF Program represents a vital milestone as we work towards realising Vision 2030.

“As well as being recognised for being well-capitalised, the fund also wants to be known as being well-run, transparent and well-governed, and the PIF Program will ensure this ambition is delivered.

“At home, the PIF Program will unlock value in the domestic portfolio and drive forward strategic and sustainable diversification by creating opportunities in a range of different industries.

“Internationally, the fund has begun to invest in some of the world’s most innovative companies and formed partnerships that will support long-term income diversification and ensure Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of emerging trends.”

The PIF Program 2018-2020 will be explored further over the remainder of the PIF-hosted Future Investment Initiative, which is bringing together global leaders, investors and innovators in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to explore the trends, opportunities and challenges shaping the investment landscape and world economy.

Source: http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/news/article/saudi-public-investment-fund-unveils-program-2018-2020-in-riyadh/

UPDATE 1-Saudi Arabia’s PIF aims to manage over $400 bln in assets by 2020

RIYADH, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) aims to increase its assets under management to 1.5 trillion riyals ($400 billion) by 2020 as part of the country’s Vision 2030, an economic reform plan aimed at boosting private-sector growth and developing non-oil industries.

The country’s main sovereign wealth fund, which is expected to receive proceeds from the planned sale of 5 percent of state oil company Saudi Aramco’s shares, has currently around $230 billion worth of assets under management.

PIF plans to create 20,000 direct domestic jobs, and 256,000 construction jobs by 2020. This will increase PIF’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product from 4.4 percent to 6.3 percent, it said in a statement on Wednesday, during a huge investment conference in Riyadh arranged by the fund.

Investments will be in sectors such as real estate and infrastructure as well as in new areas of activity in the Saudi economy through the establisment of companies such as the Saudi Arabian Military Industries company and the Saudi Real Estate Refinancing Company.

One of the biggest tasks under PIF’s responsibility is the delivery of a $500 billion plan to build a business and industrial zone extending into Jordan and Egypt.

PIF will also seek to maximise value in the fund’s existing assets, and has set a new target to increase total shareholder return to 4-5 percent from 3 percent, it said on Wednesday.

“The PIF Program represents a vital milestone as we work towards realising Vision 2030,” Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, the plan’s architect, said in a statement.

Outside of Saudi Arabia, PIF’s investments will be in a number of assets such as fixed-income, public equity, private equity and debt, real estate, infrastructure and alternative investments such as hedge funds, the fund said. ($1 = 3.7498 riyals)

(Reporting by Katie Paul; Writing by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Jason Neely, Greg Mahlich)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-update-1-saudi-arabias-pif-aims-to-manage-over-400-bln-in-assets-by-2020-2017-10?IR=T

Saudis To Lift Sovereign Wealth Fund Assets To $400B By 2020

As it is trying to boost private-sector growth and diversify its economy away from crude oil, Saudi Arabia aims to make its Public Investment Fund (PIF) one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds and double its assets to US$400 billion (1.5 trillion Saudi riyals) by 2020.

The Saudis published the 2018-2020 program of PIG on Wednesday to detail the objectives in domestic and international investments and expected annual returns in each of the fund’s planned investment pools. The program is one of twelve realization programs part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the Saudi economy championed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud.

“It also seeks to grow PIF into one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, as well as to build strong economic partnerships to deepen and strengthen the impact and role of Saudi Arabia on the regional and global stages,” PIF’s program reads.

As of September 30, 2017, PIF’s assets stood at US$224 billion (840 billion Saudi riyals).

Moving forward, the initiatives are expected to raise PIF’s assets that are expected to generate between 4 percent and 5 percent in average annual total shareholder returns to 2020. Over the long-term, the fund has identified investment pools in six areas—Saudi equity holdings, Saudi sector development, Saudi real estate and infrastructure development, Saudi giga-projects, international strategic investments, and an international diversified pool. Each of the investment pools are expected to yield long-term returns of between 6.5 percent and 9 percent.

In international investments, PIF plans to invest in fixed income, public equities, private equities, real estate and infrastructure, alternative investments (including hedge funds), and direct investments.

PIF is expected to receive part of the proceeds from the listing of 5 percent in Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco currently planned for next year.

A few days ago, Aramco once again refuted reports of the past month that it could delay the listing of 5 percent of its shares in what is expected to be the biggest initial public offering ever, with Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser telling CNBC in an interview that the IPO is on track for the second half of 2018, as planned.

Source: http://saudisheikh.com/returning-to-what-we-used-to-be-crown-prince-tells-investors-saudi-arabia-will-eradicate-extremism/

 

‘Returning to what we used to be’: Crown prince tells investors Saudi Arabia will ‘eradicate extremism’

The prince said Saudi Arabia would be open to the world and all religions, in a stunning speech in Riyadh

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh, on October 24, 2017. The Crown Prince pledged a “moderate, open” Saudi Arabia, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth. “We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world,” he said at the economic forum in Riyadh. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

It was a comment that stunned the people in the room.

At an event Tuesday in Riyadh meant to highlight the kingdom’s influence in the business world, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi Arabia was returning to “moderate” Islam and intended to “eradicate” extremism.

This in a country that was founded on an austere form of Islam and has been defined by it for decades. The remarks seemed aimed at religious ultra-conservatives who have been tolerated by the ruling Al Saud family in exchange for their support.

“We are only returning to what we used to be, to moderate Islam, open to the world and all religions,” the 32-year-old prince said at the conference in the capital. “We won’t waste 30 years of our lives dealing with any extremist ideas. We will eradicate extremism.”

The remarks made by the kingdom’s predominant leader were his strongest statements to date that the country’s founding precepts aren’t working. They came as he added to a host of reform promises by announcing plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast with more than $500 billion in investments that will offer a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia. It’s part of efforts he’s spearheading to prepare Saudi Arabia for the post-oil era.

Source: http://nationalpost.com/news/world/returning-to-what-we-used-to-be-crown-prince-tells-investors-saudi-arabia-will-eradicate-extremism

HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Appoints Dr. Kleinfeld as NEOM CEO

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, October 24, 2017/PRNewswire/. PIF announced the appointment of Dr. Klaus Kleinfeld, the former Chairman and CEO of Alcoa and Arconic Inc. as CEO of NEOM.

NEOM, was announced today by HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Chairman of the Founding Board for NEOM. It will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund, local as well as international investors.

The appointment of Dr. Kleinfeld underlines the ambition of the Kingdom. NEOM was born from Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to see the country develop into a pioneering and thriving model of excellence in various and important areas of life. NEOM stretches over 26,500 km2 of land and extends across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, rendering NEOM the first special economic zone to span three countries.

Dr. Kleinfeld is a globally respected business leader who, most recently, was the former Chairman and CEO of Alcoaand Arconic, the global leaders in the aluminium industry as well as multi-material precision engineered products and solutions. Before Alcoa, Dr. Kleinfeld enjoyed a 20-year career with Siemens, the global electronics and industrial conglomerate, where he also served as chief executive officer.

“NEOM will be constructed from the ground-up, on greenfield sites. Future technologies form the cornerstone of NEOM’s development. All this will allow for a new way of life to emerge. Dr. Kleinfeld has a track record in leading some of the world’s most dynamic, advanced and best-performing businesses and we believe these skills and his leadership will ensure NEOM’s success”, said His HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“NEOM is a unique opportunity to combine highest levels of liveability with excellent economic prospects. I am honored and excited to take on this leadership role”, commented Dr. Kleinfeld.

Dr. Kleinfeld is also an Honorary Trustee of the Brookings Institute and a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is an Honorary Senator of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting and on the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum. For many years Dr. Kleinfeld was a member of the Chinese Premier Li’s Global CEO Advisory Council, a member of the Mayor of Shanghai’s International Business Leaders Advisory Council and a member of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of Russia. Dr. Kleinfeld also served for many years on the board of Bayer, Morgan Stanley and Hewlett Packard.

Source: Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund

Source: http://tass.com/press-releases/972461

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia: We will eradicate extremism very soon (Video)

 

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Quote by the Prince

"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, civilisational, or intellectual levels."

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