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Al – Arabiyah Interview with Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud

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.

The interview was conducted by Al Arabiya’s general manager and veteran TV journalist Turki al-Dakhil. The full transcript of the interview was translated into English and is available below:

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]20 or [20]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.

[Music]

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.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Al Arabiya’s General Manager Turki Al-Dakhil. (Al Arabiya)

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.

[Music]

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.

Link to: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/media/inside-the-newsroom/2016/04/25/Full-Transcript-of-Prince-Mohammed-bin-Salman-s-Al-Arabiya-interview.html

Saudis take interest in Renewable Energy

Plans to develop renew­able energy sources in Saudi Arabia are gaining new life as part of Saudi Vision 2030, the massive economic revamping brainchild of Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Fledgling efforts during former King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s era began six years before he was installed in office. With King Fahd’s incapacitating illness, Crown Prince Abdullah’s role to in­troduce renewables, such as solar and wind power, were moving at a snail’s pace. They were effectively put on hold in the first two years of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s reign as the kingdom priori­tised making fundamental chang­es to how the Saudi government works and shifting its oil-centric economy towards a more diversi­fied one with an enhanced private sector.

The kingdom is now ready to roll out robust plans to develop nascent solar and wind power capabilities that could have far-reaching effects outside its borders.

In mid-January, Saudi Oil Minis­ter Khalid al-Falih announced that the government was weeks away from introducing a renewable en­ergy programme that would in­volve investment of $30 billion-$50 billion by 2023. Falih said the first round of bidding for projects under the programme would begin within weeks. The first tender is report­edly for 400 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity and 300MW of solar capacity, valued at $700 million.

Saudi Arabia’s domestic power demand is growing 8% each year and the kingdom burns as much crude oil products as it does natu­ral gas to generate electricity. The Saudis are thus motivated to de­velop renewables and other energy sources so as to not lose potential export revenue from crude that is currently used to meet domestic consumption.

Unwilling to assume the full fi­nancial burden that these energy projects will require, the Saudi government wants to work with domestic and foreign firms that will take on much of the cost and risk.

When Saudi Vision 2030 was unveiled last April, it pointed to renewable energy as an essen­tial component of the diversifica­tion away from an oil-dependent economy. The 5-year National Transformation Programme (NTP) announced in June established a target of 3.45 gigawatts (GW) — 4% of total power consumption — from renewable energy by 2023, though Saudi Aramco recently stated that the 3.45GW goal was being acceler­ated to 2020.

The kingdom generates less than 1% of its total energy from renew­able energy. In May 2012, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Re­newable Energy announced its plan to install 41GW of solar power by 2032, which was considered far-fetched given that the kingdom was essentially starting from scratch. In January 2015, it pushed back that timeframe from 2032 to 2040. It is unclear whether that 41GW target for 2040 is still in play in the latest plans that have been announced.

King Salman’s government says the effects of cultivating Saudi solar and wind power can extend beyond the kingdom’s borders and benefit not only the government’s coffers but meet the electricity needs of other regions. Speaking January 20th at the World Economic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzerland, Falih suggested that Saudi Arabia could become a “major exporter” of re­newable energy, saying, “solar that is produced in Saudi Arabia can be exported all the way to Europe through a network”.

Speaking at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi a few days earlier, Falih pointed to Africa as a poten­tial recipient of Saudi renewable energy, saying that the kingdom was developing ways to connect its renewable energy projects with Yemen, Egypt and Jordan. The Saudi government hopes not only to export power from its renew­able energy sources but also supply other regions with solar panels and wind turbines.

The Saudi government, Falih said, is also planning to make “sig­nificant investment in nuclear en­ergy”. He said the government was in the early stages of feasibility and design studies for the construction of two commercial nuclear reac­tors that together would produce 2.8GW. Although Saudi Arabia has in recent years signed a number of nuclear energy cooperation accords with other governments, agree­ments with France, South Korea and Russia go further by including feasibility studies for atomic power plants and fuel cycle work in the kingdom.

In 2011, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy announced its intention to build 16 nuclear power reactors by 2032 to produce up to 17.6GW of power. It estimated that the cost of constructing that number of nuclear plants would be $80 billion and Saudi Arabia’s recent financial constraints have dampened momentum on making that type of commitment.

King Salman’s government has not indicated whether it is stick­ing to the proposed schedule and nuclear power generation target. It is also unclear how much of a stake the Saudis would allow private do­mestic firms or foreign state com­panies in partial ownership of the nuclear power facilities.

Link to: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81288

US Defense Secretary condemns attack on Saudi frigate

US Defence Secretary James Mattis condemned the terrorist attack which targeted a Saudi frigate west of the port of Hodeida

In a phone call with Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, he offered condolences on the death of the Saudi sailors.

The Deputy Crown Prince stressed deep-rooted strategic relations between the two countries, which extends for more than eighty years.

He underlined the experience of the US Secretary of Defense in the region, looking forward to working together to serve the interests of both countries and combat terrorism, militias and piracy, so as to restore regional stability.

The US Secretary of Defense expressed delight and readiness to work in conjunction with the Deputy Crown Prince in all fields.

They stressed the need to implement the directives of the US President and Saudi King to work together to counter all those activities, and their full rejection of the suspicious activities and interventions by the Iranian regime and its agents in the affairs of countries in the region in order to undermine security and stability in them.

They also stressed the development of strategic relations between the two countries to wider areas.

Read original article on:

http://www.gdnonline.com/Details/167482/US-Defence-Secretary-condemns-attack-on-Saudi-frigate

Saudi Defense Minister, New Pentagon Chief discuss Mideast in 1st conversation

US and Saudi defence chiefs have held their first phone call since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, exchanging views on the issues in the Middle East.

Read the original article on:

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/01/508727/US-Saudi-Arabia-James-Mattis

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis (L) and Defence Minister and Crown Prince of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia His Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman al Saud

Defence Secretary James Mattis and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, who also serves as the kingdom’s defence minister, talked over the phone on Tuesday.

Mattis underlined the importance of the Washington-Riyadh strategic ties, particularly to counter security challenges in the Middle East, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.

The US defence chief also expressed his desire to consult closely with Saudi Arabia on security issues of mutual concern, Davis added.

Meanwhile, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said in a Wednesday report that Salman “underscored the US secretary of defence’s experience in the region.”

Mattis, known as “Mad Dog” and the “Warrior Monk,” served more than four decades in the Marine Corps and was involved in several key military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Elsewhere, the Saudi prince stressed that cooperation with Washington was necessary to restore stability to the region, the SPA reported.

The two officials further rejected what they claimed to be Iran’s “suspicious activities and interventions,” the report added.

Like Trump, Mattis is also an opponent of the Iran nuclear agreement, which was reached in 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to limit some aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of sanctions.

The conversation between the US and Saudi officials on the regional issues comes as the two allies have been among the major supporters of militants fighting against the Damascus government since 2011, when the conflict broke out in the Arab country.

Takfirism, which is the trademark of many terrorist groups operating in Syria, is also largely influenced by Wahhabism, the radical ideology freely preached by Saudi clerics.

Washington and Riyadh have both been sidelined in efforts led by Iran, Russia and Turkey aimed at bringing an end to the crisis in Syria.

Organised by Iran, Russia, and Turkey, the latest round of the Syria peace talks wrapped up in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on January 24, without Saudi Arabia being invited.

Moreover, Washington did not send a delegation to the discussions and only US Ambassador to Astana George Krol took part in the negotiations.

MiSK, SMRG renew agreement to work to help promote talented youth

RIYADH: Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) and Prince Mohammed bin Salman MiSK Foundation Monday signed a cooperation agreement stipulating the implementation of joint non-profit programs to develop the community.

The Prince said SRMG has been a strong supporter of MiSK’s programs and will continue to support its media message and its initiatives in Saudi society.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, SRMG chairman of the Board of Directors, said the group has been the main supporter of the foundation’s programs since its establishment.

“The group is keen to consolidate its partnership with MiSK Foundation for its own impact on the community, especially among young men and women, who represent the highest percentage of the population of the Kingdom,” he said.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan said that this population category “will lead the nation in the future. The programs provided to them by MiSK Foundation brush up their talents and develop them in a way that makes them future leaders. From this perspective, the SRMG supports its programs and objectives, which are common goals.”

Bader Al-Asaker, secretary-general of the foundation, said the partnership agreement is an extension of the cooperation between the two sides in serving the nation and its young generation.

“The signing of the agreement comes within the framework of the institutional work pursued by the foundation after having adopted specific cooperation mechanisms, in accordance with the foundation development goals,” he said.
Al-Asaker highlighted the important role played by the SRMG, and said he was convinced that the agreement will contribute to MiSK programs to upgrade the development and educational process and disseminate a culture of innovation among the youth.
The agreement, which is a renewal of the previous agreement between the two parties that expired at the end of 2016, emphasizes the two sides’ keenness to provide media and communication support to the initiatives and projects implemented by the foundation to disseminate knowledge and create an environment conducive to the promotion of promising young talents.

The initiatives also aim at enabling young people to launch their creations in the scientific, cultural and technological fields, in addition to promoting their leadership skills.

Read original article on:

http://saudisheikh.com/news-update/

Saudi Prince readies strategy if clerics oppose reforms-report

The young prince leading Saudi Arabia’s drive for economic reform has laid out a three-pronged strategy to avoid a backlash from any religious conservatives opposed to his plan, according to remarks reported by Foreign Affairs magazine on Saturday.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 31-year-old overseeing the kingdom’s biggest-ever overhaul of state and society, told visiting researchers last month punitive measures would be considered for any clerics who incited or resorted to violence over the plan, one of the researchers wrote.

Prince Mohammed said he believed only a small percentage of the kingdom’s clerics were too dogmatic to be reasoned with, the journal reported, while more than half could be persuaded to support his reforms through engagement and dialogue.

The rest were ambivalent or not in a position to cause problems, he is reported to have said.

There was no immediate comment from the royal court.

Prince Mohammed has couched his “Vision 2030” reform plan to wean the kingdom’s economy off oil in terms referencing Islamic tradition and has kept the focus on the economy, with scant concrete pledges of social change in the highly conservative kingdom.

But in a country that adheres to an austere brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is mandatory and concerts and cinemas are banned, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment are controversial.

Saudi Arabia’s clerics offer legitimacy and public support to a king who styles himself the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. They retain control of the justice system but leave most other matters of governance to him, so long as his edicts do not contradict their interpretation of Islamic law.

The government started trying to rein in what it saw as extremist viewpoints in the clergy after Islamist militant attacks inside the kingdom began in 2003, pushing hardline clerics to renounce al Qaeda and violent tactics and sacking clerics seen as disseminating radical views.

In the later years of the reign of King Abdullah, King Salman’s predecessor, some senior clerics who opposed his cautious social reforms too openly lost their jobs.

Link to Reuters.com article:

http://www.reuters.com/article/uk-saudi-reform-clergy-idUSKBN14T1I0

Legislating Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 transformation

If only a portion of Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Programme is implemented, there will be dramatic change, one of the kingdom’s most influential lawyers assures.

“If we can cover 50 percent of what is the aspiration in the Vision 2030, the kingdom will be doing much better,” the Saudi country director of international law firm White & Case, Doug Peel, says. “My view is that it’s a comprehensive plan, and the devil is in the detail and execution.”

Peel and his team are heavily involved in that execution, both directly, through advising government organisations, and indirectly, by hiring more Saudis (including women).

Vision 2030 is the largest transformation ever undertaken in the conservative kingdom, which is attempting to transition to a post-oil era.

New York-based White & Case is well positioned to partake in the transformation, having operated in Saudi Arabia since the 1950s when it started working with state oil giant Saudi Aramco. During the next half-century it witnessed the kingdom’s shift from an economy that relied on merchant families to one driven by the oil-fuelled coffers of the government. In doing so, it moved its offices in Jeddah to Riyadh in 2000. “Everyone who wanted to participate in Saudi economic life basically had to be in Riyadh, starting in the late 1990s,” Peel, who has worked in the Gulf for nearly 20 years, recalls.

White & Case operates in the kingdom through association with local law firm  AlSalloum and AlToaimi. It now employs 80 lawyers in five offices across the Middle East and many of their clients are government and high-ranking people in industry.

Saudi Aramco is one of the biggest, and while Peel declines to discuss anything related to the world’s largest energy company, White & Case is expected to advise the government on the upcoming sale of a 5 percent stake in an initial public offering (IPO) planned for 2018.

The IPO is part of Vision 2030, which was announced in April 2016, by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the 31-year-old who was handpicked to fix the kingdom’s burgeoning deficit and bring its economy and society into the 21st century.

White & Case is playing a key role in advising on the implementation of the vision, a task that Peel describes as mammoth but long acknowledged as necessary.

Efforts to re-balance the budget for the long-term could see $200bn raised through the privatisation of state assets over the next 20 years, according to economic development and strategy expert Dr Khalid Al Yahya.

While some in the kingdom have expressed concern that the country is giving away its ‘crown jewels’, Peel disagrees.

“I don’t [see that]. Obviously you have commentators from both ends of the spectrum and every point in between, some critical, some sympathetic,” he says.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for restructure because they look back at the track record and say, as Dr Khalid was saying on the panel, ‘we have known for 30 or 40 years, more or less, what we have to do and we’ve had these plans, but we haven’t executed them in the past, and now we are executing them’.

“I think there’s a lot of support and, sure, some people will say the state should not privatise and that the state is the best guarantor that these enterprises will be run for the benefit of the people. Others will say you have to privatise because that’s how you get efficiency and how you diversify your sources of revenue for the state.”

Privatisation of government assets is a central part of Vision 2030 as the government looks to increase private participation in what are traditionally government endeavours, including housing, social affairs, education and healthcare.

The sale of even 5 percent of Saudi Aramco would make its IPO the biggest ever.

“There was a list mooted of 146 state enterprises that are going to be privatised one way or another,” Peel confirms. “I see IPOs, trade sales, PPPs [public-private partnerships] in healthcare, education, transportation, other social infrastructure. Whether that proceeds at exactly the pace that’s contemplated in the National Transformation Programme, or at a slower pace, we’re going to be swamped with work.”

Peel says there are two significant challenges in the NTP: consensus and coordination at the government level, and an educated and talented workforce.

“I personally have worked on projects in the past for years that in the end fell at the final barrier because the government wasn’t coordinated. The ministries we were working with wanted to do something but the ministry of finance didn’t and at the end of the process, after three years’ work, that was it,” he laments.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore with the National Transformation Programme in place. That’s half the challenge solved.”

The issue of having an able, talented workforce will take longer in the long-term, he says.

“At the top level of industries and government you really only have a small number of highly talented, qualified, motivated individuals driving change. The international scholarship programme — 100,000 to 150,000 students abroad at any given time — has the potential to change that over the medium term. We’re starting to see those [students] coming back. That’s going to be a massive increase in the amount of talent available,” Peel says.

“It’s just being able to continue to work through the NTP before that wave of people is available to the government.

“The challenge is, what do you do until you can staff all of your ministries and enterprises with that highly qualified and educated, hardworking demographic. It’s starting to come, but it’s going to be another five or ten years before that surge of people has really ramified all the way through government and industry. When it does, Saudi Arabia is going to be transformed.”

White & Case is ahead of the curve, with two-thirds of lawyers in the Saudi firm nationals, including four Saudi women. A fifth Saudi female lawyer is due to start in April. While the level of Saudi lawyers is largely due to customer demand, Peel says the increasing number of women is one of the biggest transformations he has seen at White & Case’s Saudi practice.

Saudi Depty Crown Prince Mohammed is spearheading the kingdom’s diversification plans.

“We had not really tapped into the female Saudi lawyer talent pool until [2015] and it is just extraordinary how talented, well-educated and capable Saudi women lawyers are,” Peel says.

“They are phenomenal at execution. It might surprise people who have preconceptions about what Saudi social constraints are, but we have Saudi women lawyers who are happy to start at 8 in the morning and work right through until midnight, two or four in the morning, because that’s what it takes to get the job done. It’s really impressive to see.”

While the law firm poses as a case study for the broader economy, achieving such scales is more difficult in larger firms and government organisations.

“For us it’s easy; we have 20 people. If we want to add 50 percent, we only have to go and hire ten people. If you are the Ministry of Energy or Ministry of Mineral Resources, you need 100 people, or a 1,000 people. If you’re PWC or one of the foreign accounting firms, there’s a much larger scale and it’s harder to replicate what we’re able to do because the talent pool just isn’t as big,” Peel says.

He says that Saudis are seen as the future of the firm in Riyadh, where there is a predominantly local client base who are more comfortable working with Saudi lawyers.

“There’s a huge business opportunity in presenting clients with a more Saudi firm that operates to international standards, rather than a bunch of New York and English lawyers. They respond well to it,” he says. “There’s a perfect cultural fit. Our clients are often going through the process of transforming their organisations to become more Saudi and so they look at us, see us doing the same thing and they like that.”

As Al Tamimi & Company law firm assists the UAE’s legislature plans, Peel says White & Case is frequently requested to help with law reform in the kingdom.

“We’re paid for our expertise in a particular area and we work with a ministry or a government body to understand best practices and how that could be reflected in Saudi Arabia in draft laws and regulations,” he says.

A comprehensive building plan is needed over the next five years to meet KSA’s rising demand.

“The other way we do it is, now the government often puts draft laws out for consultation prior to adopting and when that happens, if it’s in an area that is of interest and relevance to us or our clients, we will comment.”

There will be plenty of legal work required to achieve Vision 2030. A new companies law is already in place, and other changes are expected to govern bankruptcy, enforcement, mortgages and mining.

“If you go through it [Vision 2030], there’s an extraordinary level of granularity — ministry by ministry, agency by agency,” Peel says.

“Every single agency is going to have to do something about the legislative or regulatory environment in its sphere of responsibility to give effect to the National Transformation Plan. Some of that will be tweaking and some will be wholesale legislative reform.”

Peel says the agility and commitment of the ministerial teams he is working alongside is “unbelievable”.

“For me it’s a revelation to see very high-powered, well-informed, high level Saudi people driving change through,” he says. “[When change happens] there will be greater foreign investment, greater transparency, greater efficiency in each sector, and I believe that’s going to be the same process in all of these different areas of endeavour in government. In our day-to-day work — we’re at the coalface with these guys — you can really see it happening. People and resources are being devoted to making the change happen.”

Peel picks out the mortgage law as being one of the most important pieces of legislation that will be passed, which will allow for greater private sector involvement in the provision of much-needed housing.

“If you have the private sector involved, you have to have private sources of finance, you have to get banks lending money to people for houses and banks lending developers huge sums of money to build 15,000 or 100,000 units at a time,” he says.

“The mortgage law should enable that but because we haven’t yet seen full implementation of the change in the land registry, from a notarial system to a cadastral system that has a central digital registry of all titles.”

However, Peel says there is some resistance in the kingdom to allowing traditional mortgages, viewed as anti-sharia law. Currently, real estate projects are typically financed through special purpose vehicles (SPVs) with a licence to own real estate. The funding bank receives a security interest in the ownership of that SPV.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to raise more than $100bn in non-oil revenue a year by 2020.

Peel says the lack of a mortgage law is throttling the ability of private sector participants to tap sources of finance for major real estate developments.

“As a result of that, you have a continued housing crisis,” he says. “There’s a good mortgage law in the books. [But] making the real estate title system work with it requires structural reform, and once you have that done, you can liberate private sector developers to tap private sources of finance.

“If you need to provide a million houses to your citizens in the next ten years, you really have to find a way to de-bottleneck the system.”

While less than 5 percent of White & Case’s global headcount is in the Middle East, Peel say the region’s profit outweighs its staff numbers, a feat he attributes to the ability to build trusted adviser relationships, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

“That means that you’re not having to compete on price with another law firm that a client thinks it just like you,” he says.

“Elsewhere, in some parts of the world, [legal] relationships have become a little commoditised, where they have a panel and go to several law firms because that’s their procurement process.”

He adds that White & Case’s business is “counter-cyclical”. “For example, we have a disputes practice that is very focussed on construction,” he says. “When it’s boom times, we’re doing front-end construction work — putting together projects and executing them. In hard times, we’re doing financing or restructuring.”

Peel sees plenty of opportunity for growth, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

“The opportunity for growth for us is there, whether we’re in a boom cycle or down cycle,” he says.

“For me, Saudi Arabia is a phenomenal opportunity. We have such a powerful brand there and such good people and amazing clients, that I think we could double in size there over the next three to five years.

“The objective is to grow in a profitable way. What I would like to see is a doubling of headcount, leading to a trebling of profit. That’s the sort of aspiration we have. The great thing about being in Saudi Arabia is that you can actually achieve that.”

Source link to: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/legislating-saudi-arabia-s-vision-2030-transformation-661110.html

Saudi’s Deputy Crown Prince meets Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the headquarters of Facebook on Wednesday and met with the tech giant’s founder and president, Mark Zuckerberg.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in San Francisco on Sunday, in the second phase of his US tour, which started last week with a visit to Washington where he met with President Barack Obama and other top US officials.

During his time in California the Deputy Crown Prince included meetings with a number of executives in Silicon Valley, the home of the world’s tech giants – as well as meeting Zuckerberg,

Another significant meeting in Silicon Valley was with Satya Narayana Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft. During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed, under which Microsoft will train young Saudis and will support Saudi Arabia in its ambitious digital and knowledge-based innovation transformation under Vision 2030.

Microsoft inked another deal to boost the Decision Making Support Center at the Royal Court by setting up systems and operational programs with the help of a team of experts from Microsoft.

It is understood that Prince Mohammed’s meetings aimed to enhance ties with Silicon Valley and create new projects to be implemented in the kingdom.

These meetings also aim to establish a high-tech sector to achieve the aims of a diverse economy, as sought by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tries out new technology in Silicon Valley (Photo: Bandar al-Galoud)

Link to: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/technology/2016/06/22/Saudi-s-Deputy-Crown-Prince-meets-Facebook-founder-Mark-Zuckerberg.html

Mohammed bin Salman Chairs Gulf Economic and Development Authority Meeting – Asharq Al Awsat

Riyadh- Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Dr Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani stated that Riyadh will witness on Thursday the first meeting of the Gulf Economic and Development Authority, which will be chaired by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On the sidelines of the preparatory committee meeting held on Thursday, which discussed the authority specialty, statute and topics related to reinforcement of economic and development cooperation between the GCC countries, Zayani stated that “The meeting of the preparatory committee was a chance to tackle the prepared agenda of the upcoming meeting.”

The GCC Secretary-General mentioned that forming the Gulf Economic and Development Authority was one of the recommendation s of the meeting of GCC leaders for consultations, along with stipulating the establishment of a ministerial committee entrusted with preparing for the meeting.

Kuwaiti Finance Ministry Undersecretary Khalifa Hamada reported to the press, on the sidelines of the preparatory committee meeting, that one of the basic topics discussed in the meeting was launching the joint Gulf market and achieving unity of customs.

“I believe that the firsts step is to determine the tasks of the authority then to form the technical office. Those in charge of the authority will determine which economic and development matters in the GCC have the priority to be tackled,” said Hamada.

Regarding economic growth slowdown and income sources diversification, amid drop in oil prices and relapse of oil revenues in the Gulf, Hamada ensured that these topics will be listed in the authority’s meeting agenda.

Source: http://english.aawsat.com/f-yousef/news-middle-east/saudi-arabia/mohammed-bin-salman-chairs-gulf-economic-%E2%80%8B-%E2%80%8B-development-authority-%E2%80%8B-%E2%80%8B-meeting

Mohammad bin Salman — world’s youngest defence minister – The News

At the age of 30, the visiting Saudi Arabian deputy Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, happens to be the youngest defence minister in the world.

This is what an esteemed British newspaper “The Independent” had recently stated about Mohammad in its latest January 9, 2016 edition: “When Mohammed bin Salman was just 12 he began sitting in on meetings led by his father Salman, the then governor of Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Province. Some 17 years later, at 29 and already the world’s youngest defence minister.”

Also holding the office of his country’s second deputy Prime Minister, he was born out of King Salman’s wedlock with Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan, the monarch’s third spouse.

Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud’s younger full brother Turki bin Salman Al Saud is Chairman of the Riyadh-based Tharawat Holding Company, which is a principal Saudi Arabian firm specialising in diverse investments in business, technology, food, sports development and real estate sectors.

The 28-year old Prince Turki is also the Chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. According to British newspaper “Daily Mail”,  “King Salman has 13 children from his three wives. With his first wife Sultana bint Turki Al Sudairi – who passed away at the age of 71 in July 2011 – he fathered Prince Fahd, Prince Ahmed, Prince Sultan, Prince Abdulaziz, Prince Faisal and Princess Hussa. Sultana was the daughter of Salman’s maternal uncle, a former governor of Asir Province.

His second wife, Sarah bint Faisal Al Subai’ai gave birth to Prince Saud. And the children from his third marriage to Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan Al Hithalayn were Prince Mohammed, Prince Turki, Prince Khalid, Prince Nayif, Prince Bandar and Prince Rakan. The King’s second son Prince Sultan bin Salman was the first Arab of royal blood – and the first Muslim – to fly into outer space. He flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in June 1985 and has occupied the post of Deputy Minister of Oil since 1995.”

As far as the Saudi Royal family’s wealth is concerned, a WikiLeaks cable provides an in-depth account in this context.

The cable had noted that according to a 1996 estimate of US embassy in Riyadh, the wealthiest royals were: Al-Walid bin Tatat bin Abd Al-Aziz ($13 billion); King Fahd ($10 billion); defence minister Prince Sultan bin Abd Al-Aziz ($10 billion) and Khalid bin Sultan Abd Al-Aziz ($2 billion).

In June 2015, the Forbes magazine had listed Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal as the 34th-richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$28 billion.

Earlier in March 2014, this is what the “Forbes” had stated that Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal: “His net worth of $20.4 billion at the time of publication comes from stakes in News Corp, Citigroup, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and other investments controlled through his Kingdom Holdings.”

In 2008, Prince Waleed was listed as one of Time magazine’s “Time 100,” which an annual list of the hundred most influential people in the world.

Prince Waleed is a nephew of the late Saudi King Abdullah, a grandson of first Saudi King Ibn-e-Saud and a grandson of Lebanon’s first Prime Minister Riad Al-Solh.

Source: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/89495-Mohammad-bin-Salman-worlds-youngest-defence-minister

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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."