Saudi prince vows 'totally different' country in five years

The Saudi government exonerated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- seen here at an investment forum in October 2018 -- over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (AFP Photo/Bandar AL-JALOUD)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince said Wednesday his country would be "totally different" within five years, vowing to pursue sweeping reforms to diversify its economy away from oil.

"I believe the new Europe is the Middle East," Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a major investment forum in Riyadh.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in five years will be completely different."

Prince Mohammed has been the driving force behind Riyadh's Vision 2030 plan for economic and social reforms, including ambitious projects such as futuristic mega-cities, as Riyadh prepares for a post-oil era.

Video: Saudi Crown Prince Breaks Silence of Khashoggi Death

"If we succeed in the coming five years, other countries will join us," he said.

He was speaking at the three-day Future Investment Initiative forum, which went ahead despite mass cancellations from global business leaders following the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Further stoking investor anxiety, the kingdom is embroiled in a costly war in Yemen and is leading an embargo against Qatar.

But, the crown prince said, "even Qatar, despite our differences with it, has a strong economy and it will be completely different in five years."

He said his country 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."