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China’s Crypto Market: Digital Yuan as an Alternative to Private Cryptocurrencies

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In May–June 2021, China—allegedly to preserve financial stability—banned mining of bitcoin and other crypto assets in such major mining centers as Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Yunnan. The total ban on mining was far from unexpected for miners as the Chinese authorities had repeatedly issued warnings over the risks of bitcoin mining since 2013. There are at least three reasons for the intervention of regulators in crypto mining in China. First, they need to combat speculation. Second, to eliminate competition with the digital currency of the People’s Bank of China. Third, to prevent environmental and other damage to society. We shall turn to each of these aspects in greater detail.

Speculative craze

China has never experienced any major financial crises causing damage on a scale comparable to other leading global economies. The country’s relatively stable economic development can be explained by China’s financial sector never having been particularly innovative. Paper money, China’s unique 9th century invention, was used mostly to service trade along the Silk Road; unlike in the West, paper money in China did not serve to accelerate the advance of capitalism. The fractional reserve system—the basis of contemporary banking—spread from Britain to other nations in the 19th century, bypassing China until the last quarter of the 20th century.

It should be emphasized that China abandoned paper money back in the 15th century, when Mongolian enslavement triggered raging inflation. From then on, copper money became entrenched in China’s monetary circulation. True, silver was used for big transactions (circulating in the form of ingots rather than coins), but it played a limited role on the domestic market. Chinese money had, therefore, nothing in common with the European monetary system of minted silver and gold coins, a coinage that would often debase. Despite its eccentricity, China’s bimetallic copper-silver standard was enviably stable, largely due to the efforts on the part of the state in maintaining the balance between copper and silver as the government would issue silver from the Imperial Treasury every now and then.

Following its victory in the First Opium War, Britain launched China’s financial sector. In the West, the exchange emerged as a financial institution back in 1409 in Bruges, while China’s first exchange based in Shanghai was not established until 1904. Even so, it was founded by Anglo-American and French exchange traders who were using it to trade in foreign securities—China’s first stock companies did not appear until the 1980s. During World War II, the Shanghai Exchange was closed to resume trading only in the early 1990s.

At the same time, China’s catch-up mode of development has caused Shanghai’s constant improvement to offer the city a progressively greater role as a multi-purpose financial center. Today, a broad range of innovative products circulate on its financial markets, including crude oil futures, two-year treasury futures, cellulose futures, interest rate options, stock options, copper options, plant rubber options and equity index options. Shanghai has become Asia’s top and the globe’s third largest crude oil options market. Chinese stocks and shares are listed on such leading exchanges as MSCI, the FTSE and S&P Dow Jones, with Chinese bonds also listed in the Bloomberg Barkley Global Aggregate Index and the J.P. Morgan Emerging Market Bond Index. Shanghai’s stock market enjoys the world’s fourth-biggest market capitalization and trade volume. By the end of 2019, the custody balance of Shanghai’s interbank bond market had reached RMB 86.4tn, accounting for 87% of China’s bond market balance and ranking second in the world.

In the coronavirus year of 2020, China was ahead of the U.S. in terms of the number companies enlisted in the influential Fortune Global 500. The same year, M&A transactions involving Greater China grew by 30% to over USD 700bn.

China’s aggressive approach to capital concentration and purchasing strategic foreign assets is ensuring that China reach its objective in cutting-edge technologies. China’s activity on the cryptocurrency market can be seen as part of this strategy.

Overall, China accounts for some 65% of the bitcoin mined worldwide. China’s leadership comes from its cheap labor force, availability of electricity, and a relatively cheap local production of computer chips and other equipment required for mining farms. According to The Economist, the mining ban resulted in about 90% of cryptocurrency mining in China being suspended. Major miners moved their business abroad, primarily to the U.S., Kazakhstan and Russia, the next three bitcoin-mining leaders. The financial risks, to which Chinese regulators responded, stemmed from the threat of rising inflation triggered by exchange of appreciated bitcoin for yuan rather than from the mining itself.

Experimenting with the digital yuan

Back in September 2017, China declared cryptocurrency ICOs illegal since these are not legal tender. It was then when China began preparations to shut down platforms trading in cryptocurrencies and to remove mobile phone apps from the relevant sites. At the same time, however, China might be planning to achieve global leadership in the fintech industry. China’s biggest companies have launched hundreds of pilot projects using blockchain technologies. Most of these are directly connected with China’s ambition to launch the world’s first full-fledged digital currency.

In April 2020, the People’s Bank of China permitted testing of hypothetical use of the digital yuan in several regions around Beijing: the Xiong’an New Area, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu as well as at the 2022 Winter Olympics venues.

Additionally, China’s proactive plans for launching the world’s first digital currency can be explained by the Chinese authorities willing to make up for the marginal use of the yuan in international finance. Clearly, the share of the Chinese yuan in various sectors of the global financial market—the foreign exchange market, the lending market, the stock market, the investment market—is significantly below China’s status as the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter. Additionally, China’s money supply in dollar equivalent is 40% greater than that of the U.S. (M2SL is measured). Should all restrictions be lifted from the capital account while the world’s biggest economy remains without a key currency, China’s economy will be fraught with the danger of becoming dollarized.

When the yuan was included in the SDR valuation basket (the IMF’s non-cash reserve asset), its share in international currency reserves had risen to a mere 2.3% by the end of 2020. By comparison, the euro’s share is 21.2% while the dollar’s share is 59%. The yuan’s share of the international deposit and loan markets and debt holdings is even smaller, averaging around 1%. According to SWIFT, the dollar and the euro accounted for 40% each in international payments in May 2021, while the yuan only accounted for 1.3%.

New technologies could potentially change the current configuration of the key currencies. Development of innovative financial and payment systems could reduce both transaction costs and the impact of the current network effects and inertia. Technologies could also help avoid sanctions and capital movement control by encouraging alternative currencies. Short-term digital currencies and payment ecosystems are the two most efficient agents of change. Digital currency competition may differ from traditional currency competition in differentiating along associated networks and users rather than being based on macroeconomic performance, which may possibly alter the traditional drivers of reserve currency configurations.

Presumably, the Chinese vision of a sovereign digital currency— the so-called digital currency e-payments (DCEP)—will be used to model everyday banking activities, including payments, deposits and digital wallet withdrawals.

Once the digital yuan is launched, its users will be able to download an e-wallet app approved by the People’s Bank of China and link it to a bank card to make payments as well as use their cell phone to get digital yuan from sellers or transfer money using ATMs and other users.

Spiking carbon footprint

China signed the Paris Climate Accords, undertaking to completely eliminate CO2 emissions by 2060. Currently, however, China is still the world’s No. 1 environmental polluter—largely, because of the excessive use of electricity for bitcoin mining.

Cryptocurrency mining has triggered rising demand for coal, prompting some producers to restart idle mines without official approval and entailing higher safety risks and a jump in fatal accidents. According to some estimates, each USD 1 of Bitcoin value created in 2018 was responsible for the damage to health and climate of USD 0.37 in China and USD 0.49 in the U.S.

Yet, environmental problems are not the only threat produced by crypto asset circulation. In its Annual Economic Report, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) [1] stresses that cryptocurrencies are essentially speculative assets often used for money-laundering and mounting ransomware attacks; their circulation involves wasteful energy expenditure that is not in the best public interests.

In June, China’s police arrested more than 1,100 people suspected of using cryptocurrencies to launder illegal phone and Internet fraud profits. The Payment and Clearing Association of China suggested that a growing number of crimes involved virtual currencies, with nearly 13% of illegal gambling sites supporting cryptocurrencies, while blockchain technologies make it harder for the authorities to trace the money.

The BIS report recommends that central bank digital currencies (CBDC) be launched as an alternative to private cryptocurrencies.

The CBDC implies that the general public, unlike in the current two-tier system (central bank – commercial banks), can access money online without going through financial intermediaries. In other words, all monetary units in circulation can become retail consumers’ direct financial claims on the central bank.

The functioning of such a one-tier payment system would mean competition to become suppressed while central banks would concentrate excessive assets and obligations in balancing them, which would make their management difficult. The idea is that most transactional tasks and work with CBDC consumers should be delegated to commercial banks and non-bank financial institutions offering retail services. At the same time, accounting for all retail transactions involving digital currency on the central banks’ balance sheet would preclude guaranteeing uninterrupted functioning of payment systems in case commercial operators encounter financial problems, since commercial operators would henceforth work with clients’ e-wallets instead of deposits. By issuing digital currency, central banks thus intend to advance the best possible integration of payment services with user platforms and other financial products. Efficiently recording and remembering all transactions within an economy, digital bookkeeping—based on distributed ledger or blockchain technology—is an important aspect of the CBDC. In this case, blockchain technology is intended to reduce costs and simplify payments.

Currently, China is testing just such a hybrid payment system with the digital yuan issued by the People’s Bank of China.


The desire of the Chinese authorities to curb cryptocurrency mining stems from fears of a disruption in the national payment system at a time when the digital yuan is experimentally introduced into the national economy. Currently, China’s socioeconomic development is already running many risks, such as a slowing pace of economic growth, trade confrontation with the U.S., non-bank intermediaries expanding their activities, which is hard to control, emerging real estate market bubbles, and rising commodity prices following the lifting of COVID-19 related restrictions. Full-fledged launch of the digital yuan could cut transaction costs and tighten control over the national financial system.

So far, no country has ever succeeded in maintaining global economic leadership without controlling global finance. Since the dollar and the euro stand firm and unshakeable in the global finance system, it is an urgent task for China to take the leading positions in Asia’s finance systems. A successful launch of the digital yuan could subsequently expand its use, for instance, to service transactions of the Belt and Road Initiative. Yet, should the digital experiment fail, investors’ interest in China’s economy might weaken, and this could dent China’s reputation as an economic, financial and technological superpower. It is, therefore, logical to assume that these considerations are the main reasons for the current ban on mining cryptocurrency in China.

As for the global crypto assets industry, China’s actions will hardly do it much damage in the medium-term. Over the past year, the cryptocurrency market has increased its capitalization five-fold as the overall number of cryptocurrencies has increased to 11,000. Both the general public and investors are obsessed with the idea of gaining super profits on a decentralized and unregulated market, and their uncoordinated actions will continue to ensure that crypto currencies remain highly volatile. Unlike the bitcoin, with its energy-intensive blockchain proof of work, other cryptocurrencies use the more energy-saving proof of stake method to verify transactions. Additionally, environmental problems created by mining bitcoin may be resolved in the future by transitioning to cleaner energy sources. Without the market craze surrounding crypto assets, it will be much harder to promote the idea of launching sovereign digital currencies.

[1]The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is an international organisation covering the world’s 63 most influential central banks.

From our partner RIAC

Doctor of Economics, Senior Research Fellow and Professor in the Department of World Economy and World Finance of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, RIAC expert

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Looking at Indonesia’s Nickel Downstream Efforts from The Perspective of Resource Curse

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Image source: Kumparan

Republic of Indonesia under the government of President Joko Widodo is intensively pursuing downstream industries, mainly in the natural resource products sector. One of which is Nickel. Indonesia’s abundant natural resource wealth is certainly a field for increasing the economic level of state revenue. Moreover, if the Government is able to ‘prosperate’ the community through the results obtained from the wealth of the country’s natural resources.

In this opinion article, the author tries to look at the perspective of the natural resource curse which is prone to be experienced by countries/regions that are rich in natural resources but the level of community welfare is far from expectations, then the author tries to provide an opinion regarding the linkage of resource curse in the midst of government efforts. increasing the downstreaming of Indonesia’s natural resource industry.

Downstreaming Nickel: A Way Out of the Term Natural Resource Curse?

President Joko Widodo and his staff’s steps to increase state revenues through the downstreaming of natural resource industry, one of which is Nickel. It should be appreciated because it is this step a way for the government to provide a way out of from natural resource curse. 

 The ‘resource curse’ in the theory introduced by Richard Auty (1993) was followed by further research from Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner (1995) find that there is a strong connection between countries with an abundance of natural resources and poor economic growth. This becomes interesting, not about the wealth of natural resources of a country. But about how the state can properly and appropriately manage the results of the abundance of nature with the economic standard of living of its people. In the perspective of resource curse, especially in terms of yield management, there are differences in each resource-rich country. Countries with abundant resource wealth sometimes succeed in development, but on the other hand they don’t. How could this happen?

 One of the things countries that are rich in natural resources has a low level of economy and people’s welfare, can be due to the management of natural resources governance by weak institutions. Weak in the sense that there is no transparency, accountability and oversight by the surrounding community.

 Indonesia, through government policies to downstream the nickel commodity industry, is expected to strengthen national economic competitiveness amid global uncertainty and can become a global key player in the nickel commodity extractive industry. The government’s step in advancing industrialization and downstreaming the natural resource industry with nickel as a commodity that has the largest reserve value in Indonesia. According to the author opinion, it is a way to avoid resource curse in the future. Construction of a nickel smelter by President Jokowi’s administration, in Morowali Regency, Central Sulawesi which adopts a green smelter in mid-2023, is a concrete step by the government in accommodating nickel natural resource products for later downstreaming.

 As a society, the authors in this opinion hope that the implications of downstream nickel industry governance for the welfare of the Indonesian people in general, and the Morowali community in particular can be well maintained through the construction of a nickel green smelter. Control, supervision and community participation accompanied by transparent institutions are certainly needed in the development process, so that the process of accountability and transparency of future results can avoid the curse of natural resources and be able to increase the country’s economic level.

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Impact of Multinational companies on Pakistan

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Multinational companies (MNCs) have had a significant impact on Pakistan’s economy since the country’s liberalization and opening up to foreign investment in the 1990s. Overall, the impact of MNCs on Pakistan can be seen as mixed, with both positive and negative effects on the economy and society.

Multinational companies (MNCs) are firms that operate in multiple countries, including Pakistan, and are usually headquartered in developed countries. They have the capability to invest large amounts of capital, technology, and expertise, which can significantly impact the host country’s economy. MNCs, bring foreign direct investment (FDI) to Pakistan, which is essential for economic growth.

The presence of MNCs in Pakistan has had a positive impact on the economy in various ways. They have contributed to the development of infrastructure, which has helped to improve the country’s business environment. MNCs have also helped to increase exports, which has led to an increase in foreign exchange reserves. Additionally, they have introduced modern technologies and practices, which have enhanced productivity and efficiency in the local industries.

One of the significant impacts of MNCs on the Pakistani economy is their contribution to employment generation. MNCs have created jobs for the local population, which has helped to reduce unemployment and poverty. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector, where most MNCs operate, has increased by 2.8% in the fiscal year 2020-21. This growth can be attributed to the expansion of MNCs in the country.

The presence of MNCs in Pakistan has also led to the transfer of skills and knowledge to the local workforce. MNCs employ highly skilled professionals who share their knowledge and expertise with local employees. This transfer of skills and knowledge helps to enhance the human capital of the country, which is essential for economic growth.

Furthermore, MNCs have a significant impact on the tax revenue of Pakistan. MNCs pay corporate taxes, which contribute to the government’s revenue. According to the Federal Board of Revenue, the contribution of MNCs to the country’s tax revenue has increased by 19.9% in the fiscal year 2020-21. This increased tax revenue can be attributed to the expansion of MNCs in the country.

 MNCs have negative impacts on the environment and may exploit natural resources. The entry of MNCs into the Pakistani market has increased competition for local firms, making it difficult for them to compete with well-established global brands

MNCs have been accused of exploiting labor and natural resources in Pakistan. There have been reports of low wages, poor working conditions, and environmental damage associated with MNC operations in the country.

The current situation of multinational companies (MNCs) in Pakistan is mixed. On one hand, Pakistan has been successful in attracting foreign investment in recent years, with MNCs investing in various sectors of the economy such as telecommunications, energy, and infrastructure. On the other hand, Pakistan still faces a number of challenges that can impact the operations and growth of MNCs.

One of the major challenges faced by MNCs in Pakistan is the weak and uncertain regulatory environment. The country’s legal and regulatory framework is often viewed as complex and difficult to navigate, which can make it difficult for MNCs to operate and make long-term investments. In addition, corruption and lack of transparency in the regulatory environment can increase the cost of doing business and reduce investor confidence.

Another challenge is the inadequate infrastructure in Pakistan, which can make it difficult for MNCs to operate efficiently.

Furthermore, Pakistan has faced security challenges that can impact the operations and growth of MNCs. Terrorism, political instability, and sectarian violence can increase the risk of doing business in the country and deter foreign investment.

Despite these challenges, there are opportunities for MNCs in Pakistan, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, and tourism. The country has a large and growing population, a strategic location, and abundant natural resources, which can make it an attractive destination for foreign investment.

The impact of multinational companies (MNCs) on the thinking of people in Pakistan can be both positive and negative, depending on various factors such as the nature of the company’s operations, its business practices, and the local cultural and social context.

On the positive side, MNCs can bring new ideas and practices to Pakistan and can help to expose people to different ways of thinking and doing business. They can also bring job opportunities and skills development to local communities, which can have a positive impact on the local economy and people’s quality of life.

Moreover, MNCs can help to promote cultural exchange and understanding between Pakistan and other countries. For instance, MNCs may bring in employees from different parts of the world, exposing local employees to different cultures and perspectives. This can lead to increased tolerance and diversity in society.

On the negative side, MNCs may lead to negative consequences for local communities and the environment. MNCs may contribute to the marginalization of local businesses and industries, leading to the loss of local cultural and economic practices. This can have a negative impact on people’s sense of identity and belonging.

The impact of MNCs on the thinking of people in Pakistan is complex and multifaceted. While they can bring new ideas and opportunities, they can also have negative consequences for local culture and values. It is important for MNCs to be aware of these potential impacts and to operate in a socially responsible and culturally sensitive manner, in order to promote positive outcomes for both the company and the local community.

In conclusion, the current situation of MNCs in Pakistan is mixed. While there are challenges such as a weak regulatory environment, inadequate infrastructure, and security concerns, there are also opportunities for foreign investment in various sectors of the economy. It is important for Pakistan to continue to address these challenges and create a more investor-friendly environment to attract further foreign investment and promote economic growth.

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How Saudiconomy, is an economic-transformational miracle?

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Saudi Cabinet session. image Source: Saudi Press Agency

What is happening in the Global economy? The outlook seems entirely iffy, in the state of flux and bewildered with negative outlooks. The answer is, “Disturbance”. If we analyze the global-environment with respect to economy, we find it clouded with discussions pertaining to hawkish vs. dovish trends of central-banks, rising inflation, hyper-inflation, tanking GDP growth, Russian-Ukraine conflict, energy-crises, broken supply-chains, unemployment, recession-fears, supply-shocks, lower demands, inverted yield-curves, liquidity crises, banking debacles and many other ensuing economic-ramifications etc. all have become talk of corridors and towns.

In my opinion, the global economy seems in shambles, extrapolated perceptions assumed by analysts out of Jackson Hole meetings and other developed-countries’ central-banks are creating disturbances in financial-markets. Simply, the world is devoid of any solid vision, which could steer it towards betterment and prosperity. Major financial newspapers are dreading with inflation impacts. Ask any banker across the globe about his or her medium-term economic-outlook & you’ll get an ugly picture painted.

Welcome to Saudi Arabia, the year 2022 the country surpassed a mark of a trillion-dollar economy according to both IMF and Oxford Economics coupled with GDP which grew at 8.7% in 2022. The annual CPI in Saudi Arabia  increased by 2.5% and inflation averaged at 2.47% in 2022 which is “absolutely nothing” against double-digits’ inflation worldwide.

So paradoxically asking, what is happening in Saudi Economy? The answer is, “Growth”. If we analyze Saudi economic ecosystem, we find it filled with positive economic-vibes where the discussion is all about hike in industrial-production, foreign-investment-inflows especially huge industrial-investments, mining-investments which aim to unleash the potential of natural-resources, infrastructure-investments, giga-projects, achievement of economic & financial targets on time, flourishing private-sector, multiplying Non-Oil GDP etc.

Taking global-view, H1+H2 of 2022 were clouded with immense geo-political tensions, with ultimate economic-ramifications. But KSA has remained insulated of all global economic-vagaries, which attests the resilience & robustness of Saudi economic framework which is strengthened by Saudi leadership. The fiscal-year 2022 attracted significant foreign capital-inflows, which proves that Saudi Arabia has successfully positioned itself as a desired-destination of global financial-capital amid the ongoing global-turbulence. Saudi Arabia has successfully averted economic-effects of current geo-political turmoil, in terms of utilities, food-security and inflation-containment etc.

The question arises, how did KSA achieve this economic excellence & resilience in really a short time-span? The answer is, a Vision is being implemented and realized by Saudi leadership with sheer commitment and enabled by Saudi youth. This trifecta is indeed a global successful case-study of how major economic-transformations can happen in a short-period of time.

Delving into more details, the fundamental reason is, in 2016 Saudi Arabia had devised a brilliant Vision 2030 under the leadership of H.R.H King Salman and this was a road-map drawn by H.R.H Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, as a forward strategic-economic framework. Under this brilliant vision, uniquely-crafted “Vision Realization Programs” (VRP) were designed, each tasked with a particular niche to smoothen the regulatory-processes, incentivize deployment of local-resources and ultimately attract private-sector & foreign-investments. All these VRPs are showing satisfactory-progress and many of these VRPs have over-achieved brilliantly.

Another driver of this economic-success is a significant-emphasis on optimizing potential of “Non-Oil GDP”. It is the Non-Oil GDP, which ultimately provided an impetus and incentivized Saudi Private-sector to act proactively. The fuel for sky-rocketing “Non-Oil GDP” is actually the giant private-sector of KSA, whose potential is being unleashed by Saudi government via launching a partnership-program namely “Shareek” which aims to intensify the potential of SAR 5 trillion of domestic private sector investments by 2030. The aim is to maximize the private-sector contribution up to 65% in Saudi GDP by 2030.

One of the attributable reasons of this economic-miracle of Saudi Arabia has been a constant emphasis on Higher Education & Research. For instance, scholarship programs for Saudi students proved to be a stellar success. Today we see countless highly-qualified Saudis, possessing valuable global-experience are now steering many organizations in both the public and private sector of country. Their competence coupled with determination, passion & loyalty for their leadership and the country paved the way for Saudi Arabia to result such an economic-success. Nature Index which tracks scientific & intellectual contributions globally has ranked Saudi Arabia, 1st in Arab World & 30th globally in 2022, which manifests emergence of high quality scientific-output by Higher education ecosystem.

Saudi Arabia was one of the countries, which made headlines across global-media due to smart Covid-management, leaving behind many developed economies. For instance, King Abdullah Port has bragged the 1st-position leaving behind 370 global-ports in a globally-renowned index, Container Port Performance Index – 2021 by World Bank and S&P Market Intelligence, which analyzed performances of 370 ports in post-Covid broken supply-chain scenario. Similarly, Jeddah Islamic port and King Abdul Aziz port have bragged 8th and 14th position respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, Public Investment Fund has emerged as one of the smartest-SWF leaving behind many decades-old SWFs with stellar investments. The PIF     (AuM = 620 USD billion) with its in-built strong potential has taken lead in investing locally in Saudi Arabia. In any country, a monetary-system always carries immense importance in proper functioning of an economy & solidifies its robustness. This important task is being carried out diligently by Saudi Central Bank, SAMA, which is brilliantly regulating Saudi financial-sector.

Saudi Arabia is taking a lead in developing state-of-the-art infrastructure. Each of the giga-project is adding gross-value of billions of SAR directly to economy and is providing thousands of jobs. I call them; “Super-infrastructure” because they are being developed with a super-vision, led by super-teams, giving super-results and yield a super-future. Recently Knight Frank which is a top-notch and a century-old UK-based real-estate consultancy firm has evaluated the 15 giga-projects up to 1.1 trillion dollars.

Indeed, Saudi success story of economic-transformation and diversification embodies sheer brilliance, commitment and determination, which has manifested wonders in less than a decade as appreciated by the Managing Director of IMF in the recent WEF sessions, in these words, “They (Saudis) are using the increase in revenue very effectively to create the investment environment for future growth for diversifying the economy,”

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