May 6, 2021

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The Saudi Crown Prince defends the steps of austerity, social easing

The Saudi Crown Prince defends the steps of austerity, social easing

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a vigorous defense of his internal policies and thinking behind his drive to transform Saudi Arabia economically and socially during a wide-ranging interview broadcast on TV channels Tuesday. Saudis.

He said the kingdom is in talks to sell a 1% stake in the state-owned oil giant Aramco to a major global energy company. In 2019, the kingdom listed 5% of Aramco on the Saudi stock exchange in an effort to raise funds for its sovereign wealth fund.

The interview was scheduled to celebrate five years since the launch of Vision 2030, Prince Mohammed’s project to transform the kingdom from an island nation dependent on oil to an economic powerhouse open to the world. In his presentation of the project in 2016, he acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had a “dependence on oil”.

One of Prince Mohammed’s most important goals as he prepares to one day inherit the throne from his 82-year-old father, King Salman, is to create millions of jobs for Saudi youth entering the workforce. His goal is to lower unemployment to 7% by 2030. Unemployment in the kingdom peaked at 15.9% in mid-2020 before returning to around 12%.

The crown prince described the tax rate as a “temporary decision” that could last anywhere from one to five years and then be lowered between 5% and 10%. He said tough decisions need to be made “to avoid catastrophes and create opportunities”.

On relations with Washington, the prince said that Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration agree on 90% of matters of mutual concern, but disagree on the rest, even if he did not elaborate.

He said the world is “a vast place” with many nations with which to build strategic ties.

“We do not accept any external pressure or interference in our internal affairs,” said Prince Mohammed.

President Joe Biden’s administration has made it clear that it is recalibrating U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia after four years of hot times with the Trump administration. Among Biden’s first decisions was to order an end to US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The interview aired the same day an explosives-laden boat targeted the Saudi port of Yanbu. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for past attacks on Saudi oil targets.

“We want good relations with Iran,” said Prince Mohammed of the kingdom’s main rival. The problems with Iran stem from its “negative actions”, such as its nuclear program, interference in regional conflicts and ballistic missile program, he said.

Although the prince’s international reputation remains damaged by the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, he is popular with many Saudis for his bold social reforms.

With the support of his father, the prince lifted the ban on driving women, curbed restrictive male protection laws, opened the country to cinemas and concerts, and issued directives that drastically reduced the execution rate in the kingdom.

“Today we cannot move forward … with the presence of extremist thought in the kingdom,” he said, adding that it would hinder economic growth and development. He warned that any Saudi with extremist views, even if that person has not yet committed a crime, “is a criminal.”

He attempted to put the distance between the kingdom and the teachings of the late Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, whose ultraconservative teachings are known as “Wahhabism” and associated with some of the more extreme interpretations of Islam. The prince said there is not a single person or school of thought in the realm that Islam should be confined to.

In an interview with Saudi viewers during the holy month of Ramadan, he said that punishment and laws should no longer be based on clerical interpretations of the Quran that are 100 years old.

“Our constitution is the Koran. It was, it is and will continue to be, ”the crown prince said, stressing that religious moderation is the key.

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