A vendor selling dates sits atop a pickup truck as he talks to customers during the annual dates festival.
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Saudi Arabians are anticipating with hope, doubt and worry the release this week of a government plan to liberate the kingdom from its reliance on oil, which could solve deep-rooted problems but bring economic pain. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the 30-year-old son of King Salman, is to announce Monday his "Saudi Vision 2030," which is expected to set goals for the next 15 years and a broad policy agenda to reach them, official sources say.Economic details of the vision, a package of state budget reforms, regulatory changes and policy initiatives for the next five years known as the "National Transformation Plan," are expected to be released four to six weeks later.Others doubt much change can be achieved in the kingdom's conservative society, or worry that the program will be painful as welfare benefits are cut to protect state finances and the government pushes more Saudis into the private sector jobs instead of cushy public employment.Workshops over a few months will not wipe off five decades of bureaucracy," Saudi economist Fadl al-Boainain said.Many Saudis also fear the reforms will hit their wallets, as the government cuts price subsidies for fuel and utilities, and wage rises in the public sector – which employs most Saudis – slow.
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