Long known for its ultra-conservative values,Saudi Arabian kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At a glitzy press conference in Riyadh, General Entertainment Authority (GEA) chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib told reporters the kingdom is set to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade."We are already building the infrastructure," Khatib said, adding that ground had been broken for an opera house.Khatib said hundreds of new companies have sprung up over the past year, registering for licences to take advantage of the budding sector. The funding for new infrastructure and entertainment offerings will come from both the government and the private sector. Authorities have also announced plans to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas this year, with some 300 expected to open by 2030. Senior GEA official Faisal Bafrat said the past year had already seen exceptional development in the entertainment sector with more than 2,000 events involving 100,000 volunteers and 150 small and medium businesses organised in 2017. The reforms are part of Prince Mohammed's ambitious "Vision 2030" programme, which seeks to diversify the Saudi economy as it reels from a slump in energy prices, with the entertainment sector seen as a key potential source of growth.
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