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A 30-year-old prince's bold vision for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's 30-year-old deputy crown prince's ambitious economic "vision" to diversify the economy could include 5 million new jobs for the kingdom.

One Saudi watcher said the goal would be to create the millions of jobs over a number of years across several sectors in a newly diversified economy. That may even include a plan to turn Saudi Arabia into a global logistics hub between Asia and Europe.

But analysts expect the plan, to be unveiled Monday, will be light on details and still unclear in how it will be implemented.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been shaking up Saudi Arabia with efforts to reform the economy and his goal of turning it into a force in the world economy — beyond oil. As the favorite son of King Salman, he controls some of the most powerful pieces of the Saudi portfolio — the military and the energy sector.

On Monday, the prince is expected to lay out his "vision" to move Saudi Arabia to a diversified economy, less dependent on oil and better able to employ its citizens. As part of that, details are expected on his proposal to sell a stake in Saudi Aramco and the creation of a monster $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund. Bin Salman also wants to move the country off a system of giveaways and has already pared back subsidies for electricity, fuel and water.

"I think he's smart to be talking about these things," said Bruce Riedel, director of the intelligence project at Brookings and former CIA national intelligence officer for the Middle East.

About 70 percent of the population of Saudi Arabia is under 30, and more than 30 percent of that is unemployed. Five million new jobs would mean one new job for roughly every six people in the country.

Riedel said he expects to see just the outline of a plan. "They will announce a cautious series of reforms, including opening up Aramco a little bit. They will announce probably some cutbacks in subsidies." He said it's unclear whether there will be any further detail on the sovereign wealth fund yet.

"They're talking about 5 percent of Aramco. That's modest. ... There's the problem: transparency in the Saudi oil industry. Immediately that's going to start raising questions about where do the profits go. We know the profits go to the king and other senior royals."

Riedel noted that the late King Abdullah was one of the richest men in the world. "How...


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