Saudi Arabia announces a plan to double the size of its main sovereign wealth fund just hours after launching a major project for a domestic business area. As Silvia Antonioli reports, this is part of a wider strategy to revisit the country's economic model.
Saudi Arabia has plenty of land and now plenty of ambition to build on it Its Crown Prince has unveiled a $500 billion project to build a huge business and industrial area extending into Egypt and Jordan. He also wants to double the size of the country's main sovereign wealth fund and create some 20,000 jobs. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SAUDI CROWN PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAYING: "This project is not a place for any conventional investor. This is a place for dreamers who want to do something in the world." The weak oil price has damaged the Saudi economy, forcing the top crude exporter to rev iew its economic model. The new initiative calls for more investment in local businesses to reduce the amount of money leaking out of the country while the expansion of the PIF wealth fund. is aimed at boosting private sector growth and weaning the economy off its reliance on oil. Saudi's bid to attract investment already seems to have reached some powerful ears. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KIRILL DMITRIEV, CEO OF RUSSIAN DIRECT INVESTMENT FUND, SAYING: "Saudi Arabia is very important and since the meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Putin we have been working on this partnership with PIF. We see major transformation going on in Saudi Arabia, the visit of King Salman has been a really historic event for Russia two weeks ago." , so all of those things combined really underscores the importance of Saudi Arabia to Russia and the partnership that Russia wants with Saudi Arabia." Saudi's investment plans follow a series of economic and social reforms in a country where 70 per cent of the population is under 30. Allowing women to drive - was one of them. But the highly conservative kingdom remains one of the most criticised regimes for violation of human rights. // This while speaking at a major conference in Riyadh organised to showcase the kingdoms' bold plans to reinvent itself.