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Saudi Arabia announces post-oil economy restructuring plans

Saudi Arabia has announced an economic reform plan to diversify its economy and boost other sources of income over oil by 2030, the Saudi Gazette has reported.29 Apr 2016

The plan was developed by deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman, and includes a long-rumoured sale of 5% of state-owned oil company Aramco, the newspaper said as it published bin Salman's full speech.

Ownership of the rest of Aramco will be transferred to Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, making it the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. This "will not compete with the private sector, but instead help unlock strategic sectors requiring intensive capital inputs. This will contribute towards developing entirely new economic sectors and establishing durable national corporations", bin Salman said.

Reforms will bring transparency and accountability to government agencies, holding them accountable for any shortcomings, while tax increases and spending and subsidy cuts will help to raise government funds, bin Salman said.

Saudi Arabia will also increase its capacity to welcome pilgrims to Mecca from 8 million to 15 million a year by 2020, and to 30 million by 2030, and aims to more than double the number of Saudi heritage sites registered with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), bin Salman said.

Saudi Vision 2030 was endorsed by the Saudi Arabian Council of Ministers, the Saudi Gazette said.

Middle East expert Sachin Kerur of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind said: "The Saudi administration is not just merely talking diversification any more but acting upon it. The resulting opportunities could be game-changing for the economic landscape of the Kingdom.”

Bin Salman said in January that an Aramco IPO was a possibility.

"Personally I’m enthusiastic about this step. I believe it is in the interest of the Saudi market, and it is in the interest of Aramco," he said.

Saudi Arabia is likely to post a budget deficit of almost 20% of gross domestic product this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The head of Saudi Aramco, Khalid al-Falih said in November that the country has no plans to reduce its production of oil despite the ongoing low oil price.

The International Energy Agency said in August that global demand for oil is expected to grow by 1.6 million barrels a day (mb/d), the fastest pace for five years, due to economic growth and to consumers responding to lower oil prices.