Deputy crown prince: ‘Sky is the limit’ for Saudi society amid reforms

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Updated 22 April 2017
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Deputy crown prince: ‘Sky is the limit’ for Saudi society amid reforms

JEDDAH: The “sky is the limit” for Saudi Arabian society if people are willing to embrace the change, the Kingdom’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said.
In a wide-ranging interview with American columnist David Ignatius, the deputy crown prince reflected on the ground-breaking changes presently taking place in the Kingdom under the Vision 2030 plan.
He told Ignatius that the crucial requirement for reform is public willingness to change a traditional society, saying the era of extreme religious conservatism is over.
“If the Saudi people are convinced, the sky is the limit,” he was quoted as saying.
David Ignatius, who was in the Kingdom this week as part of the press corps accompanying US Defense Secretary James Mattis, wrote about Saudi Arabia in an in-depth opinion article for The Washington Post.
The article drew heavily on his 90-minute conversation with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Two years into his campaign as change agent,” the deputy crown prince “appears to be gaining the confidence to push his agenda of economic and social reform,” Ignatius wrote.
“Change seems increasingly desired in this young, restless country,” he wrote. He quoted a recent poll which indicated that 85 percent of the public, if forced to choose, would support the government rather than religious authorities on policy matters.
The article also reveals that 77 percent of those surveyed supported the government’s Vision 2030 reform plan, and that 82 percent favored public music performances attended by men and women.
During the conversation with Ignatius, the deputy crown prince was optimistic about President Donald Trump; the prince described him as a president who will bring America back to the right track.
“Trump has not yet completed 100 days, and he has restored all the alliances of the US with its conventional allies,” Ignatius quotes the deputy crown prince as saying.
The article talks about the growing ties between Saudi Arabia and the US as evidenced in the discussions with Mattis during which the possibility of additional US support was discussed “if the Houthi insurgents in Yemen don’t agree to a UN-brokered settlement.”
The deputy crown prince favored a relationship of equals between Saudi Arabia and the US. “We have been influenced by you in the US a lot,” he told Ignatius. “Not because anybody exerted pressure on us — if anyone puts pressure on us, we go the other way. But if you put a movie in the cinema and I watch it, I will be influenced.” Without this cultural nudge, he said, “We would have ended up like North Korea.”
Explaining to Ignatius about why Saudi Arabia has been wooing Russia, the deputy crown prince said: “The main objective is not to have Russia place all its cards in the region behind Iran. (We have been) coordinating our oil policies (recently with Moscow) in what could be the most important economic deal for Russia in modern times.”
The deputy crown prince also talked about the pace of economic reforms, which he says “appear to be moving ahead slowly but steadily.”
The prince said that the budget deficit had been reduced; non-oil revenue increased 46 percent from 2014 to 2016 and is forecast to grow another 12 percent this year. Unemployment and housing remain problems, he said, and improvement in those areas is not likely until between 2019 and 2021.
Ignatius describes the deputy crown prince as “the instigator of (the) attempt to reimagine the Kingdom,” and observes that “unlike so many Saudi princes, he wasn’t educated in the West, which may have preserved the raw combative energy that is part of his appeal to young Saudis.”
According to the deputy crown prince, “extreme religious conservatism in Saudi Arabia is a relatively recent phenomenon, born in reaction to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Makkah by Sunni radicals later that year.”
“I’m young. Seventy percent of our citizens are young,” he told Ignatius. “We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in for the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now. We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post-’79 era,” he said. “That age is over.”


FaceOf: Saudi journalist and writer Waleed Al-Farraj

Waleed Al-Farraj
Updated 43 min 56 sec ago
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FaceOf: Saudi journalist and writer Waleed Al-Farraj

Fans continue faithfully to cheer for the Green Falcons of Saudi Arabia, including Saudi journalist and writer Waleed Al-Farraj, who passionately called upon the national team on Twitter.

@waleedalfarraj: “Our beloved Falcons, you are capable of giving the most enjoyable performance for your fans and for our grand country. I believe in you.”

Al-Farraj was born in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province in 1969. He holds a diploma in commerce and has sat for a number of studies and courses in specialized journalism and TV production in Egypt.

His career in journalism began in 1985 and continued until 2003. 

He was the deputy managing editor of the sports pages in Al-Yaum newspaper in Dammam. He founded and was the deputy editor of The Saudi Sports Journal.

His experience in television spans from 1998 to 2011; he used to be executive producer for the broadcast of the Saudi League for five years, during which he supervised the technical and art direction for channels such as ART Sport, Abu Dhabi, Al Jazeera Sport and Line Sport.

As a presenter, he is considered one of the most controversial in Saudi television, and is famous for his bold commentary. 

He was a football commentator during the 2002 FIFA World Cup for ART Sport. 

He covered the national team’s participation in the 2006 World Cup. In 2011 he joined MBC group as a sports presenter on MBC Action.

Currently, Al-Farraj is general manager of a company specializing in providing Internet services. He is also the general manager of the Saudi Dallah Group.