Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recently praised the reforms of Vision 2030 that are underway in Saudi Arabia in a recent column entitled “A young prince is reimagining Saudi Arabia. Can he make his vision come true?”
Ignatius held a wide-ranging, 90-minute discussion with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a recent visit to Riyadh. During the course of the interview, the Deputy Crown Prince said that the crucial requirement for reform is public willingness to change a traditional society — “The most concerning thing is if the Saudi people are not convinced. If the Saudi people are convinced, the sky is the limit.”
In the column, Ignatius discussed the impending plan to privatize about 5 percent of Saudi Aramco. The exact size of the offering will depend on financial-market demand and the availability of good options for investing the proceeds, he told me. Ignatius noted that “The rationale for selling a share of the kingdom’s oil treasure is to raise money to diversify the economy away from reliance on energy.”
Under Vision 2030, a variety of economic initiatives are underway:
- One priority is mining, which would tap an estimated $1.3 trillion in potential mineral wealth.
- Creating a domestic arms industry, reducing the $60 billion to $80 billion the Kingdom spends annually to buy weapons abroad
- Producing automobiles in Saudi Arabia to replace the roughly $14 billion the government spends annually for imported vehicles
- Creating domestic entertainment and tourism industries to capture some of the $22 billion that Saudis spend traveling overseas each year.
Ignatius also noted a number of recent cultural offerings in the Kingdom as a product of Vision 2030 including, the February 2017 Saudi Comic Con in Jeddah, the inaugural Monster Jam which brought 30,000 attendees to the King Fahd International Stadium, a performance by a full Japanese orchestra, and the recent announcement that a new Saudi entertainment city will be built south of Riyadh.
The Deputy Crown Prince concluded the interview with his wish to create development in the Kingdom in a way that allows for both continuity and change: “We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs.”