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Society, not government, will decide women driving issue

RIYADH: Saudi society, not the government, will determine whether women will be allowed to drive cars, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
said on Monday.

He was speaking to journalists after the unveiling the Saudi Vision 2030.
He was asked whether one of the plan’s goals, to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent, could lead to their right to drive.
“So far the society is not persuaded — and it has negative influence — but we stress that it is up to Saudi society,” he said, adding that change cannot be forced.
“We will not allow our country ever to be at the mercy of commodity price volatility or external markets,” he said at his first news conference with international journalists, who were invited to a Riyadh palace for the event.
The plan foresees social changes, with women contributing more to the work force.
“We will not rest until our nation is a leader in providing opportunities for all through education and training, and high quality services such as employment initiatives, health, housing and entertainment,” he wrote in an 84-page booklet outlining the plan. With so much capital on its hands, the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund would make Riyadh one of the single most important global investors.
It will be “by far the largest on the planet,” he said.
Asked where Riyadh would find the funds for a $2 trillion dollar fund after recent borrowing, he said it would come from transferring the ownership of Aramco to the PIF.
“We are speaking about more than $2 trillion. We expect the valuation to be more than $2 trillion. In addition to that there are other assets that will be added to the fund, and part of it is already added.
“People used to be unhappy that files and data of Aramco are undeclared, unclear and not transparent. Today they will be transparent. If Aramco gets IPO-ed that means it has to announce its statements of accounts,” he said.
Saudi Arabia would prepare a new education curriculum, he said.
The deputy crown prince gave assured answers to questions on the plan, and appeared to pitch his comments to appeal across the Saudi social spectrum, and in particular to young people.
Appealing to Saudi youth, he ended his news conference by promising them a new Saudi Arabia.

—With input from agencies

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