UPDATE: 7.16 a.m. EDT — Saudi Arabia's cabinet has approved an economic reform plan — named "Vision 2030" — that aims to minimize the gulf nation's reliance on oil as a source of revenue, state-run news network Al Arabiya reported. "We hope citizens will work together to achieve Saudi Vision 2030," Saudi Arabia's King Salman reportedly said. Details of the plan are expected to be revealed later Monday.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will on Monday reveal details of the so-called “Saudi Vision 2030” — a plan that, over the next 14 years, would seek to minimize the kingdom’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy. Over the past year, the country, which derives 80 percent of its revenue from oil, has faced the brunt of a massive global glut that has pushed oil prices down to historic lows.
“Shifting from an oil-based economy to something different is very difficult,” Gregory Gause, a professor at Texas A&M University, told Bloomberg. “The Saudis have been talking about it for decades, but have made little progress. So MbS [Mohammed bin Salman] has his work cut out for him.”
According to Bloomberg, which recently conducted an eight-hour long interview with the deputy crown prince, the “vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” is expected to include a plan to sell part of the government’s stake in the state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco through an initial public offering, and to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund that would eventually hold over $2 trillion in assets.
“[The proposed measures] will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil,” the prince, whose father gave him complete control over the country’s economic policy when he ascended the throne in January 2015, told Bloomberg. “So within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil.”
A “National Transformation Plan,” which will outline the Kingdom’s economic reforms for the next five years — with a special focus on increasing government efficiency, boosting economic growth, expanding the private sector and creating jobs — will also be released six weeks after Monday’s announcement.
Between September 2014 and February 2016, global oil prices dropped by about 70 percent, and the ensuing decline in oil-dominated export revenue led to Saudi Arabia’s budget deficit ballooning to $98 billion last year — a figure equivalent to nearly 15 percent of its gross domestic product.
This year, the deficit is expected to narrow to 13.5 percent.
In December, the Saudi government announced a raft of spending cuts and reforms aimed at reducing the budget deficit to approximately $87 billion by the end of this year after the International Monetary Fund warned that the country may run out of cash in less than five years.
In the same report, the global lender stated that labor market reforms were an essential element of any economic diversification effort in the country.