Saudi Arabia will strike with an “iron fist” all those who threaten the Kingdom’s security and stability, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Thursday in a speech carried by state news agency SPA.
“Today, extremism is no longer accepted in Saudi Arabia, and it no longer appears on the surface. It has instead become rejected, disguised and alienated. However, we will continue to face any extremist behaviors and ideas,” the Crown Prince said.
“The Kingdom condemns and rejects every terrorist act or practice or action that generates hatred and violence, and is committed to confronting extremist rhetoric and rejecting any attempt to link Islam and terrorism.”
The Crown Prince added: “We threaten all those who think about carrying out a terrorist act or exploiting hate speech, with a deterrent, painful and very severe punishment.”
“Our work today has become preemptive, and we will continue to strike with an iron fist against anyone who tries to harm our security and stability.”
The Crown Prince’s warning came after the ISIS extremist group claimed responsibility for an attack on an event at a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah at which diplomats from France, Greece, Italy, Britain and the United States were in attendance.
At least two people were wounded.
On October 18, ISIS had called on its supporters to target Westerners, oil pipelines and economic infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
Economy and coronavirus pandemic
The Crown Prince said that the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) will inject 150 billion riyals annually ($40 billion) in the economy in 2021 and 2022.
He added that the fund managed to create higher return of investments at a minimum of 7 percent, from 2 percent since its establishment, with some investments exceeding 70 percent and others making a return of more than 140 percent, adding that it became one of the "key growth drivers" for the Saudi economy.
The Crown Prince also said he was working hard on doubling the size of the Kingdom’s economy and diversifying it away from reliance on oil, and that the Kingdom made unprecedented achievements in less than four years.
“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest and most important economies in the world, and we are working hard on doubling the size of the economy and diversifying it… The government considers the non-oil Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the main indicator for the success of our economic plans,” he said.
“In 2016, Saudi Arabia’s non-oil GDP was worth 1.8 trillion riyals ($480 billion), and we started planning to double that at a rapid pace. The result was accelerated growth in the past three years, at 1.3 percent in 2017, 2.2 percent in 2018, 3.3 percent in 2019 and more than 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, despite some economic challenges,” he added.
The Crown Prince said that despite the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences, the Kingdom is considered one of the 10 best countries in dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic among the G20 countries.
“We are optimistic that the growth rate will begin to acceleration as the pandemic begins to subside and life returns to normalcy. We will have one of the fastest growing non-oil GDPs among the G20 countries,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s revenues dropped due to historically low oil prices and reduced economic activity amid lockdowns and curfews implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Its oil revenues fell 24 percent in the first quarter of this year to 128.771 billion riyals, while non-oil revenues fell 17 percent to 63.3 billion riyals.
The Kingdom slipped into a $9 billion budget deficit in the first quarter, and its central bank foreign exchange reserves fell in March at their fastest rate in at least 20 years and to their lowest since 2011.
To mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its public finances and economy, Saudi Arabia announced on May 11 austerity measures, including reducing expenditure by 100 billion riyals ($26.6 billion), tripling VAT and suspending cost of living allowance.