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Saudi Arabia unveils economic reforms plan

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Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has agreed a broad-based economic reform plan, known as Vision 2030, revealing how the oil-reliant state plans to diversify its economy over the next 14 years.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Monday that the country was building up the its Public Investment Fund to become a major player in global markets.

He added that Saudi Arabia was restructuring its housing ministry to increase the supply of affordable housing, and creating a “green card” system within five years to give expatriates long-term residence.

Saudi Arabia will also sell shares in state oil giant Aramco and set up the world’s largest wealth fund in line with the plan, the deputy crown prince said separately in an interview with the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel after the government announced the plan.

“We plan to sell less than five percent of Aramco. Aramco’s size is very big. It is estimated at between $2 trillion and $2.5 trillion,” Mohammed bin Salman said.

“We plan to set up a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund … part of its assets will come from the sale of a small part of Aramco.”

Saudi Arabia’s economy has suffered over the last 12 months in line with the falling price of oil, with a $98bn budget deficit last year and an estimated deficit of $87bn this year. Its reserves decreased from $746bn in 2014 to $616bn today.

“They have announced this kind of changes before. It is going to be very interesting to monitor the implementation of the new rules,” Ahmed al-Ibrahim, an expert in Saudi affairs and security, told Al Jazeera.

“To implement some of these, you need the collaboration of society. For example, if you want to increase the empowerment of women, you need to liberalise your society,” he said.

“In so many more ways, Saudi society needs to contribute to the government for the Vision 2030 to succeed.”

The country has proven oil reserves of 267 billion barrels and potential reserves of up to 900 billion.

[Source: Al-Jazeera]
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