Saudi Arabia plans to more than triple the government's non-oil revenues and clamp down on public-sector salaries over the next five years. As Ivor Bennett reports, Saudi ministers say the reforms will reduce the economy's dependence on oil and build a sustainable future.
It may not be pretty. But economically speaking, this is what Saudi Arabia hopes its future will look like. The aluminium facility's only been in operation for two years but is already the world's largest. The shiny silver metal supposedly the new black gold. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF MA'ADEN ALUMINIUM, ABDUL AZIZ AL-HARBI, SAYING: "Our target is to be the lowest cost producer in the world, which we are already approaching now." Mining in Saudi Arabia has been neglected for years. but is now the foundation of their efforts to end a dependence on oil. After last year's crude price plunge left a 100-billion-dollar sized hole in the budget. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ENERGY MINISTER, KHALID AL-FALIH, SAYING: "We aspire to raise the level of investment in mining exploration from a baseline of $50 million per year which is a very low level to $500 million by 2020." Mining is only one strand of the plans to diversify. A new sales tax will be introduced, energy subsidies cut and fees imposed on the private sector, Their target - to more than triple non-oil revenues by 2020. SOUNDBITE (English) CHIEF ECONOMIST, WORLD FIRST, JEREMY COOK, SAYING: "It's only happened while oil prices have been low. And if we start to see oil prices come higher - if in six months' time Brent crude is sat at 75 dollars a barrel - is there an incentive to really go through this painful reform process when they can simply sit back on what they've been doing and still make very, very good bucks on the back of it?" That may depend on the success of Riyadh's new financial district. At 10 billion dollars, it hasn't been cheap But if it can lure foreign businesses, it may prove worth it.