Saudis await future plan with hope
Prince Mohammed bin Salman to announce 'Saudi Vision 2030' on Monday.
Riyadh - Young population believe 'Saudi Vision 2030' will bring jobs, new opportunities
Saudi Arabians are anticipating with hope the release this week of a government plan to liberate the kingdom from its reliance on oil.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia, is to announce on Monday his "Saudi Vision 2030", which is expected to set goals for the next 15 years and a broad policy agenda to reach them, official sources say.
Economic details of the vision, a package of state budget reforms, regulatory changes and policy initiatives for the next five years known as the "National Transformation Plan", are expected to be released four to six weeks later.
Hundreds of thousands of Saudis are speculating in newspapers, on television, in social media and in private conversations about the contents of Monday's announcement. Many, particularly young people, say they welcome change, believing it will bring jobs, new economic opportunities.
The government's official Twitter account for the announcement, @SaudiVision2030, has gained 226,000 followers since it was launched last Wednesday.
Prominent Saudi economist Abdulhamid Al Amri said on Twitter that he had been hoping for such a comprehensive vision for over 10 years - a delay he believes has cost Saudi Arabia the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars. "The absence of such a vision led to the waste of trillions of riyals, the spread of monopolies, corruption, unemployment, poverty and the delay of development projects," he wrote.
But he added, "Laying out a vision is the first step on a road of a million miles - the implementation remains."
Many of the broad outlines of Vision 2030 are already known; they include an efficiency campaign within the government, a bigger role for the non-oil private sector, and more aggressive management of the kingdom's foreign assets to increase returns.
Given the modest impact of the past reform drives, financial markets have moved little before the Vision 2030 announcement.
Late King Abdullah, who died in January 2015, was widely seen as a reformer when he ascended the throne in 2005. He developed an investment promotion agency, began a big scholarship scheme for Saudis to study abroad and let women vote in municipal elections for the first time.
But on top of the persistent oil dependency, problems such as a shortage of affordable housing and uneven health care were only partially resolved.
The current reform drive may be more effective.
Many Saudis believe that he may be able to break down bureaucratic barriers and cut through the red tape that has stifled many government operations.
"The first quick win will be the efficiency and cooperation," said Prince Mansour Al Saud, senior planning manager at the state-controlled Saudi Industrial Development Fund, who participated in workshops to discuss the reforms.
"Everybody will sense improvement in every single aspect of government work, in education and healthcare services."