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23 Jul, 2018 03:07

Tony Blair's institute gets $10m from Saudi Arabia for modernization help – report

Tony Blair's institute gets $10m from Saudi Arabia for modernization help – report

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's 'Institute for Global Change' has reportedly received multi-million dollar payments from the Saudi Arabian government for its role in advising the kingdom on its ambitious modernization plan.

Founded in 2016, the not-for-profit Tony Blair Institute for Global Change received $10 million (£7.6 million) from Riyadh in January for an advisory role in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's 'Vision 2030' program, the UK's Sunday Telegraph has revealed.

Geared at restructuring and invigorating the Saudi economy, the program looks to reduce Saudi reliance on oil revenues after a worldwide drop in oil prices in 2016 caused shock in the Kingdom amid never-before-seen austerity measures.

The Telegraph investigation says that Blair's institute received the payment from Media Investment Ltd (MIL) – a subsidiary of the publisher Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) – registered in the island jurisdiction of Guernsey, which was listed by the EU as a tax haven in 2015. Until recently, SRMG was chaired by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Farhan, who left the position upon becoming Saudi Arabia's first ever culture minister in June.

Sources quoted by the paper added that total funding provided by Saudi Arabia to Blair's outfit currently exceeds $12 million (£9 million).

The Tony Blair Institute has provided glowing reviews of the king-in-waiting, praising bin Salman as having "demonstrated a level of conviction, clarity and coherence in identifying and understanding the nature of Islamist extremism that Western policymakers should seek to learn from."

Addressing the audience at September's Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Blair himself hailed the modernization plan as "the most important and the most exciting thing that has happened in this region in the last few years."

Responding to Telegraph's queries, a Tony Blair Institute spokesperson acknowledged that the institute had "received a donation from MIL" for the "not for profit" work of the institution, which was intended to support the institute's "declared mission in the Middle East," that is, to increase "stability and understanding." Mr. Blair's office maintained that it was under "no duty" to disclose the identities of its donors.

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