KEEP ON GROWING

Saudi Arabia 2016 | ECONOMY | FOCUS: LOW OIL HIGH GROWTH

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Vision 2030, according to which the growth of new industries and sectors will help the Kingdom to reduce its dependence on oil and the private sector to increase its contribution to the national economy.

On April 25, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman disclosed details of the long-awaited Vision 2030 after the Council of Ministries approved the plan, first proposed by the Council of Economic Affairs and Development (led by the Deputy Crown Prince) to transform the Saudi economy.

The dramatic drop in oil prices led the country to register a $87 billion deficit at the end of 2015. The vision will allow the Kingdom to switch from a complete reliance on a single commodity to relying on diversified sources of income. The Deputy Crown Prince explained that Vision 2030 and its implementation would require restructuring rather than new money.

The most important measure included in the plan relates to the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi sovereign investment fund that currently holds $160 billion worth of assets. According to the program, that amount will be increased up to $2 trillion by including $1 trillion worth of state-owned industrial and real estate assets and $600 billion in other assets, as well as the proceeds from the initial public offering (IPO) of the behemoth Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company.

Prince Mohammed said 5% of the oil giant will be sold through Tadawul and through a North American stock market, and it is set to become the biggest IPO in history. Aramco, which today accounts for 10% of the global oil outcome, will be transformed into a holding company with an elected board and its subsidiaries could eventually be brought public in the future. As with any other publicly listed company, Aramco will be required to announce its results quarterly and it will be monitored by local and international financial institutions. This will increase transparency, prompting interest from local and foreign investors.

As a result of this reformation, the PIF will become the world's largest sovereign fund, bigger than the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, worth $866 billion, and it will control more than 10% of the world's total investment capacity.

Another major initiative included in the plan regards the Kingdom's will to improve living and working conditions for non-Saudis. The government is developing a scheme expected to be ready in five years for the issuance of an American-style green card that, among other benefits, will increase expatriates' ability to own properties. The fee required to acquire the card will represent a new source of income for the government, but the primary aim of this measure is to attract and retain the necessary skills and capabilities to achieve the desired economic growth.

In line with the reduction in subsidies on water, oil, and electricity implemented in December 2015, the plan mentions further cuts in subsidies but ensures that they will have little impact on low and middle class income earners.

The rise of new industries is expected to boost creation of non-oil revenue from $44 billion to $267 billion. Additionally, it will bring opportunities to the private sector to raise its share as a percentage of GDP from the current 40% up to 60%. The recently established Job Creation and Anti-Unemployment Commission is tasked with curbing unemployment from 11.6 to 7%, as well as increasing female participation in the workforce from 22 to 30%.

The implementation of Vision 2030 will save Saudi Arabia from falling victim to the Dutch Disease by switching from quantitative to qualitative economic growth. Sectors that have been quiet for decades are expected to play a major role in the Kingdom's future economy, so much so that Prince Mohammed said that Saudi Arabia will no longer be dependent on oil by 2020.