«Saudi Vision 2030»: A Look into key achievements in 5 years

In April 2016, HRH Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, launched the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which focuses on the real and comprehensive development of the Saudi state in an ambitious future.

The vision aims to improve the conditions of citizens and the quality of their lives, preserve their freedoms, and protect their rights.

Today, with the passage of five years since the launch of Vision 2030, some people are beginning to take stock of the calculation and evaluate performance to determine what the goals of the vision have been achieved, and what is expected to be achieved.

The speech of Prince Muhammad bin Salman, in a television interview conducted during the first half of 2021, detailed and explained what the vision had achieved in terms of achievements and the challenges it faces, stressing at the outset the main starting point represented in developing this vision and even the guarantor of its success, which is related to what he called state center.

 This political term coined by the Crown Prince expresses the centrality of the role of the national state and the importance of strengthening and empowering it in the face of discourses calling for its demolition, similar to what happened in the events of 2011.

 Terrorist organizations are still fighting the nation-state, as is the case in Yemen, for example.

 This was confirmed by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said that “returning to the center of the state was the biggest challenge facing us in 2015 when King Salman became king.”

Therefore, his main focus at the beginning was on the importance of building and developing the center of the state, as he pointed out explicitly by saying: “Before you achieve anything, you need to build the team to adopt the machine that helps you achieve these opportunities and these aspirations that we aspire to as Saudis.”

Needless to say, what Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to about the importance of building a team capable of creative scientific thinking away from stereotypes and repetition, represents the focus of the main breakthrough in his vision.

The reality has confirmed the validity of this opinion, as evidenced by the fact that Vision 2030 had been presented before the launch of many visions and strategies aimed at development, but it stumbled on its way or was unable to be completed.

There were many interpretations, but these interpretations often neglected the pivotal basis for the success of these visions and strategies, that pillar represented in the qualified work team capable of managing the system with high efficiency and rare professionalism, with a condition worthy of focus on it, which is what the Crown Prince called “Passion of the Responsible”.

 This concept in management science is one of the concepts that you need to focus on, given its importance in the success of the system to be achieved, as Prince Muhammad bin Salman specifically refers to this in his selection of his work team by saying: “Without doubt, competence and ability, etc. are essential, but the most important thing is that there is passion on the part of the official,”.

In light of this trend that Prince Mohammed bin Salman carried, he was able to successfully implement the first phase of his 2030 development vision, as he indicated in his television interview, where there were many achievements and a variety of successes achieved in all sectors and fields covered by the vision.

If it is difficult to review all the successes that have been achieved in all sectors of the Kingdom; politically, economically, socially, developmentally, educationally, militarily, and security-wise in such a limited report in the number of words, therefore, we focus on some main themes, the most prominent of which are the following:

First: Tourism is the locomotive of development

Tourism represents a locomotive for comprehensive development, as it is one of the sectors that combines two features; service and industrial, someplace it within the service sector, while others view it as an industry, and regardless of the contrast of the two visions regarding tourism, but it represents an important tributary of national income with its foreign currencies, and what it attracts from various local and foreign investments, and what it provides of job opportunities for young people as it is one of the labor-intensive sectors.

From this point of view, tourism represented a major component in achieving Vision 2030, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave it distinguished attention, starting with the issuance of the royal order to establish the Ministry of Tourism to take care of the tourism sector in the Kingdom in all its aspects, organize, developing and promoting it, through the establishment of the Tourism Development Fund with the capital it amounts to SAR 15 billion, to attract more investments and finance tourism facilities.

 This is in addition to the launch of many giant projects such as “NEOM”, “Amaala”, “Red Sea”, “Qiddiya” and “Diriyah Gate”, which would contribute to attracting more incoming tourist traffic to the Kingdom as well as interest in archaeological and heritage sites.

This interest was translated into the registration of new Saudi sites in the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), where the number of visitable heritage sites in the Kingdom in 2020 increased to 354 sites, up from 241 sites in 2017. This is in addition to the interest in cultural heritage. The intangible registered with UNESCO, where its number increased from only 3 elements before the vision, to become 8 elements.

The number of urban heritage sites registered in the National Cultural Heritage Register reached 1,000 in 2020, compared to only 400 in 2016.

Accordingly, all these distinguished efforts have achieved successes on the ground in this important sector, most notably:

The Ministry of Tourism launched the electronic visa system, under which tourists from 49 countries were able to obtain immediate visas, and issued more than 440,000 visas until March 2020, so that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deservedly deserved to be named by the World Travel and Tourism Council as the fastest growing tourist destination in the world, since the launch of the visa.

Launching some electronic platforms aimed at presenting the true image of the Kingdom and its diverse tourism potentials; Culturally, recreationally, scientifically, sports, and other things, for example, the “Spirit of Saudi Arabia” platform was launched, which contains a calendar of various events and activities.

Launching training and qualification programs in the tourism and hospitality sectors, including the “Your Future is Tourism” campaign in March 2021, which is expected to contribute to providing 100,000 new jobs for national cadres by the end of this year.

Launching the “Quality of Life” program aimed at providing new opportunities for citizens to enjoy cultural, recreational, and sports activities. Among the events that took place in this regard was the revival of several concerts with the reopening of cinemas.

Attention to sports tourism, as the Kingdom hosted the “Diriyah Formula E Race”, which was held for the first time in the Middle East. The Diriyah Gate project in Riyadh also hosted heavyweight boxing tournaments and international tennis tours, which attracted about 1.2 million visitors.

The tourism expenditure index increased from SAR 130.5 billion in 2015 to SAR 164.6 billion in 2019, an increase of 26 percent.

The second: A Business-Incubating Environment that Attracts Investments

Within the framework of the implementation of Vision 2030, there have been numerous initiatives aimed at providing an environment that supports the business potential and expands the economic base, which contributed to doubling the assets of the Public Investment Fund to reach about SAR 1.5 trillion in 2020, after it did not exceed SAR 570 billion in 2015.

This confirms the expected role of the fund in the future, as depicted by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, by saying: “The goal of public investments is growth and to provide a very large fund so that after 2030 it will be a source of state revenues, and today we do not want to consume the Public Investment Fund and transfer profits to the budget.” 

The Crown Prince added that changing the goal within a fund seeks to reach the number of public investments to SAR ten trillion in 2030, and after that, a policy will be adopted according to the situation at that time, and we will spend revenues from the Public Investment Fund that will not exceed 2.5 percent of the fund’s volume to maintain Fund’s continued growth.

In the same context, the distinguished business environment also contributed to the growth of foreign direct investment flows to reach SAR 17.625 billion, an increase of 331 percent, after it was SAR 5.321 billion before the launch of the vision.

The accession of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) to the MSCI, Standard & Poor’s, and Dow Jones emerging market indices was also an attractive factor to raise the value of the owners of these funds in the market by 195.9 percent to reach SAR 208.3 billion by the end of 2020, with an ownership rate of 12.8 percent The total value of the shares.

This was reinforced by the establishment of the Saudi Fintech Center, which aims to open financial services to new types of actors in the field of financial technology, which made the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) one of the top 10 financial markets around the world.

The vision also contributed to raising the percentage of non-oil GDP to reach 59 percent in 2020 after it was 55 percent in 2016.

 Non-oil revenues increased to SAR 369 billion in 2020 after it was SAR 166 billion in 2015, an increase of 222 percent, while the number of factories increased by 38 percent to 9,984 factories, compared to 7,206 factories before the launch of the vision.

 This coincided with the launch of pioneering initiatives, including the “Made in Saudi Arabia” program, the “Shareek” program to enhance partnership with the private sector, increase the pace of GDP growth, establish the Export-Import Bank, and launches the mining investment system.

The Kingdom’s vision provided sustainable housing solutions

It is important in this regard to shedding light on a correct understanding of the role of oil in the Saudi economy, as the Crown Prince stressed that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 concerning looking at oil and its economic and developmental role, does not call for a shift from the oil economy entirely, meaning that the vision does not call for the Saudi economy will not depend on oil, rather, what the vision offers is maximizing the benefit of all wealth and human and natural resources in the Kingdom instead of relying on a single resource, which is oil.

 He emphasized this by saying: “The idea I want to reach is that we are not an oil sector. We want to increase our benefit from the oil sector, from manufacturing industries, etc. We are also working on various other opportunities away from the oil sector to diversify our economy and increase the size of our economy.”

The above means that the goal in the vision is to maximize the returns from the multiple resources of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with a focus on the oil sector, being the most operating sector at present. 

The vision aims to maximize the benefit from this sector and invest its returns, which means a rejection of the idea promoted by some That Saudi Arabia wants to get rid of oil.

The Third: International Consensus and Regional Partnerships… Achievements of Vision 2030 in the External Arena

The achievements of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 were not limited to the inside, but also extended to the outside, through the directions of the Kingdom’s foreign policy that aimed at achieving regional stability and international consensus politically, economically, and security, which was referred to by the Crown Prince in his speech, when he stressed that “the Kingdom is working to strengthen its alliances with all partners in the world”

The first: At the regional level, when he touched on the relationship with Iran and its interference in the region, where he indicated that Saudi policy aims to push the region and the world to grow and prosper, including Iran, by saying: “We do not want Iran’s situation to be difficult, on the contrary, we want Iran can grow and we have interests in it.”

Launching the first women’s community football tournament

In connection with the foregoing, his position on Yemen confirms his insistence on the approach to peace and stability, which he expressed by saying that “Al-Houthi is Yemeni and has pan-Arabism. The national interest of all Yemeni parties takes precedence over personal interests and private agendas”.

The second: At the international level, when he indicated that “there is a Saudi agreement with the administration of US President Joe Biden by 90 percent… and that the Kingdom considers the United States to be a strategic partner… and that the Kingdom’s policy with the United States of America is based on common interests.”

At the same time, he stressed that the relations of the two countries cannot be devoid of some discrepancies that do not affect the state of consensus between the two countries.

 He pointed out this explicitly by saying that “the margin of difference with the United States may increase or decrease … that there is no agreement 100 percent between any two countries, even the closest to us in the Gulf.”

In the same context, he stressed that the Kingdom “does not accept any pressure from any force in the world, and the Charter of the United Nations guarantees that no country will interfere in the internal affairs of another country,” which expresses two main directions governing the Kingdom’s foreign policy:

The first is its rejection of any pressures that some parties try to impose on the Kingdom in any of its files, internally or externally.

Second: It is represented in its refusal to interfere in the internal affairs of any state in compliance with the rules and principles of international law established by the Charter of the United Nations.

In addition to the above, the Kingdom was also keen, in the course of its foreign orientations, to give priority to two important issues, namely:

The first is related to oil and its global marketing, as the Kingdom established the OPEC Plus group of oil producers in 2020, a historic achievement represented in achieving the largest production reduction known to the oil market, which contributed to restoring stability and balance to global markets and facing the effects of the Corona pandemic on the global economy.

The second: related to preserving the environment, to achieve sustainable development, as the Kingdom proposed the concept of a circular carbon economy adopted by the Group of Twenty, to demonstrate the Kingdom’s commitment to protecting the environment and combating climate change within the framework of the Paris Agreement and the relevant international conventions.

Fourth: The future complements the successes of the present

The future holds many ambitions to be achieved to complete the vision with its various achievements, which was set by Prince Mohammed bin Salman through his presidency of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, by launching the second phase of the process of achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which begins in 2021 and continues until 2025.

  The vision puts in mind maintaining the momentum required to continue reforms on the one hand and advancing the targeted achievement on the other hand, which the Council drew in three main axes without going into the exact details of the work methodology, which are:

The first: restructuring some of the current programs, and establishing other programs to keep pace with the requirements of the next stage, such as the establishment of the “Health Sector Transformation” program, which aims to restructure the health sector into a comprehensive health system to achieve the aspirations of the vision.

Second: Giving flexibility to the implementation schedules of some programs, setting priorities for implementing initiatives, and enabling changes related to legislative policies.

The third: Transferring the initiatives of the programs “Strengthening the National Character”, “Leadership of National Companies” and “Strategic Partnerships” to the programs and entities associated with them, after the programs achieved most of their goals in the first five years of the vision, and the need to preserve their independence in the next stage was eliminated.

In light of all of the above, we conclude that what has been achieved five years after the launch of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 represents an important turning point in the course of the development process pursued by the Kingdom, which has been able to achieve many goals, execute numerous achievements and even face many challenges.

 This was indicated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said: “Vision 2030 has been able to achieve exceptional achievements and address structural challenges in just five years.”

 Here, the role of the Saudi political leadership emerges with its usual wisdom, far-reaching insight, and piercing vision, as it was able to steer the ship in a cohesive sea of ​​waves, to face challenges and achieve achievements, and even chart paths to complete the steps of the future, all of which benefits the Saudi citizen.

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