Bin Salman, in a five-hour interview with Bloomberg, also discussed his vision for the kingdom's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the sale of a public stake in the Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco. The proceeds of the stock offering, expected next year or later, would help fund PIF which ultimately could control $2 trillion and help diversify Saudi Arabia away from oil, according to the report.
"What I'm worried about on Saudi Arabia right now is the lack of coherence of policy. Maybe he's going to become the central messenger and he's going to come up with a grand vision, and everyone sticks with it. But when you look at the FX (foreign exchange) drawdown and the removal of funds from foreign asset managers it raises questions," said Croft. "I think the oil story is very important. We had al Naimi out there saying it doesn't matter if Iran doesn't participate. It's kind of lurching from message to message."
Saudi Arabia has drawn down more than $150 billion in foreign reserves to meet its budget deficit as oil cratered. It has also been issuing debt and tapping bank loans. Saudi Arabia is a very low cost producer, estimated at under $10 a barrel but it needs 10 times that to meet its budget requirements.
"He's the top decision maker on oil. ... That's part of his brief," said Yergin. "I think these decisions are very considered. It's not just made up on the spot. ... One of the messages is that Saudi Arabia is going to be a bigger force in the world economy, not just in terms of oil but in terms of finance ... these messages have to be seen together. This is all part of a larger program of reform and protecting the Saudi position in terms of oil."
In the interview, bin Salman explained that Saudi Arabia would sell shares of Aramco's parent company and turn the oil giant into an industrial conglomerate. The kingdom currently plans to sell less than 5 percent of Aramco.
"IPOing Aramco and transferring its shares to PIF will technically make investments the source of Saudi government revenue, not oil," said the prince. He said that after diversifying investments, Saudi Arabia, within 20 years, would become an economy that does not depend mainly on oil.
Bin Salman said Saudi is working on spending more efficiently, noting the government used to spend up to 50 percent more than allocated in its budget but that was cut to 12 percent last year. For that reason, he said he does not believe Saudi Arabia has a problem with low oil prices.
Educated in Saudi Arabia, bin Salman is unlike many members of the royal family that have been educated in the west. He is seen in traditional dress, and Croft said he's not known to hit the night clubs.