December 19, 2018

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Consulting Firms Keep a Lucrative Saudi Alliance, Shaping Crown Prince’s Vision

Consulting Firms Keep a Lucrative Saudi Alliance, Shaping Crown Prince’s Vision
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Press officers for the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to emails seeking comment.

In February 2016, consultants for McKinsey and BCG escorted five emissaries from the Saudi royal court to make the rounds of think tanks in Washington. They informed Gulf experts about Mohammed bin Salman’s grand goals to remake Saudi life while the consultants, who outnumbered the Saudis, quietly took notes.

BCG has been deeply enmeshed in laying out the economic blueprint of the country, called Vision 2030, which aims to wean Saudi Arabia from its dependency on oil revenues. A McKinsey report in 2015 laid out the broad strokes of that plan.

Asked by The Economist in 2016 about a $4 trillion estimate of needed investment to transform the kingdom’s economy, the prince immediately recognized the figure. “This is a report from McKinsey, not from the Saudi government,” he replied, adding that McKinsey “participates with us in many studies.”

Last month’s Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, a conclave championed by Prince Mohammed, underscored Saudi Arabia’s importance to the consulting firms. While executives, companies and journalists pulled out amid the global furor over Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, they stayed on.

McKinsey led panels on money and energy, the event program showed. Boston Consulting Group focused on unspecified “intelligence.”

In a statement, BCG said it focused in Saudi Arabia on work that could “positively contribute to economic and societal transformation” and that the company has turned down work that goes against that principle. The firm declines projects that involve military or intelligence strategy, a spokesman said.

For years, Booz Allen has trained the Saudi Navy, part of an American government program to help allied militaries. The company has worked with the navy on operations, intelligence and electronic warfare, as well as logistics and financial management, it said in 2012.



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