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Saudi prince unveils sweeping reform plan for economy

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Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a sweeping reform plan on Monday that he said would transform the kingdom into a global investment power and wean the world's top oil exporter off crude by 2020.

[RIYADH] Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a sweeping reform plan on Monday that he said would transform the kingdom into a global investment power and wean the world's top oil exporter off crude by 2020.

Prince Mohammed, a son of the Saudi king who also serves as defence minister and head of the country's economic council, was giving his first nationally televised interview since his accession last year.

The plan was a recognition that an economy based purely on energy can be vulnerable to external shocks. "I think by 2020, if oil stops we can survive," Prince Mohammed said. "We need it, we need it, but I think in 2020 we can live without oil."

As part of his Vision 2030 reform plan, Prince Mohammed said the state-controlled Public Investment Fund had been restructured to become a hub for Saudi investment abroad, partly by raising money through sales of shares in national oil giant Saudi Aramco.

"We restructured the fund. We included new assets in the fund, Aramco and other assets, and we fixed the problems of the current assets that the public investment fund owns, both in terms of companies and other projects," he said.

"Initial data say the fund will have control over more than 10 per cent of global investment capacity."

A green card system would be launched within five years to enable expatriate Arabs and Muslims to live and work long-term in the country, Prince Mohammed said, in a major shift for the insular kingdom.

REUTERS