RIYADH: The Middle East can be the “new Europe,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Wednesday as he vowed to see the region thrive economically.
The crown prince told a packed audience at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh that he would like to see the economic transformation of the region happen within his lifetime.
He said his “war” was restoring the Middle East to its past glory. “I believe the new Europe is the Middle East,” Prince Mohammed said. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in five years will be completely different.”
The crown prince is driving Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan for economic and social reforms. “If we succeed in the coming five years, other countries will join us,” he said. “Even Qatar, despite our differences with it, has a strong economy and it will be completely different in five years.”
The crown prince said Saudi Arabia had already taken “very big steps” to develop its own economy.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “Our non-oil revenues have almost tripled.”
Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom would continue with its ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan, predicting the economy will grow by 2.5 percent this year and that growth would improve next year.
He cited Saudi Arabia’s efforts to transform its oil-dependent economy, build more infrastructure, and fight terror. “All our projects are going ahead, reform is going ahead, our war on extremism is going ahead, our war on terrorism is going ahead ... our efforts won’t stop no matter how they try to constrain us,” he said.
Higher crude prices and an expansion of the non-oil economy helped Saudi Arabia’s economy grow in the second quarter at its fastest pace for over a year, according to official data.
The crown prince praised Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, ruler of Dubai, who he said had set the standard for Middle East societies.
Prince Mohammed was speaking on stage with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Prince Salman said growth in Saudi Arabia was good for the region as a whole. “Saudi Arabia is the engine of growth in our region and its success will be reflected on us,” he said.
Hariri spoke of the importance of forming a new government in Lebanon — something he acknowledged will take time. “We are looking forward to forming a government that will meet the needs and expectations of the Lebanese people,” he said.
Prince Mohammed joked about allegations that Hariri was detained in the Kingdom last year — and said the Lebanese PM would be departing the Kingdom soon.
“Prime Minister Saad is staying in the Kingdom for two days so I hope you don’t spread rumors that he was kidnapped,” the crown prince said.