How the business community is reacting to Saudi Vision 2030

Saudi blogger Faisal al-Shammeri on why Vision 2030 is essential in putting Saudi Arabia on its path to the future

Faisal Al-Shammeri
Faisal Al-Shammeri - Special to Al Arabiya English
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I’m about to describe the success story of a country, which I will reveal at the end of this article.

The story begins in 1878 with the emergence of a new Nation-State rather late in the world vis-à-vis Europe. In an effort to re-establish the power of the central government over feudal lords it had been determined that this new emerging country would need to modernize further. For centuries this society had successfully locked itself away from the outside world. Its people did not interact with others, trade with outsiders, or have any recognition of other sovereign nations.

But when the country was founded it immediately considered a modern power and one to be taken seriously. She had proved her mettle well before the outbreak of hostilities in World War I by spectacularly winning wars with two of her most powerful neighbors. A popular children’s song during this era of modernization – after the royal family’s restoration – recognized ten desirable Western objects, including steam-engines, cameras, newspapers, schools & steamships.

Later on, this Nation-State fought credibly as a partner with The Western Powers in World War I. It was an abundantly clear demonstration of a new, credible force and of equal standing. It had first class textile industry and manufacturing capacity along with a first-class military.

By the 1920’s a universally and highly efficient school system was in place, whose products were working in factories which not only manufactured textiles for sale at highly competitive prices on the world market but also produced heavy and light engineering goods, steel, and chemicals and armaments – ships, aircraft and guns – as modern as any in the world.

However, during the 1920’s outside of its prosperous urban areas the country remained relatively poor and agrarian. Over a million new mouths were required to feed each year due to a booming birthrate. A series of disastrous crop failures and floods would only exacerbate the situation among the peasantry, poorer classes and rural populace. The people in the rural areas would eventually begin gravitating towards the more radical and nationalist impulses as a route for a future and opportunity, but hope and a new vision of the future.

Recently, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman released the official 2030 vision, a set of policies for the Kingdom moving forward economically. When one takes a deep and careful looks at the plan, it one that takes into account both the reality of where the country stands and where it could be. In short, the vision is brilliant in its marriage of simplicity and acknowledgment of the strengths the nation brings to the table at the onset of this journey.

First, Islam: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the center of the Muslim world and has The Two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. It will always allow the kingdom to have a central place in the Muslim world and a leadership role to not only assume but play.

Second, geography: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sits at the very crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia while having a position in the very heart of the Middle East. It also sits on two of the world's most important water routes for international trade in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. It occupies a balcony into the Arabian Sea, also a vitally important trade route for international commerce today because it provides the first step towards a link with India, Southeast Asia, and onwards to the Asian Pacific-Rim nations.

It is uniquely situated to not only be a dominant player in the Middle East, but the bridge for Europe into the region, and the springboard into Asia. There is no other Nation-State on the planet that can currently be a bridge to Europe, the Middle East and Asia like Saudi Arabia. Second, the availability of natural resources. Yes, oil is – and always will be – an important part of the Kingdom but with the emergence of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, ores, precious minerals, petrochemicals, copper, gold and silver, it provides the country with a strategic base for a massive expansion of the economy. This is not done from a position of weakness either but rather, the reality that they are only beginning to touch their potential.

The Saudi 2030 Vision will help to turn Saudi Aramco into a global company, transforming the Public Investment Fund to the largest Sovereign Fund in the world, and supporting several of the largest Saudi companies become cross-border and key players in global markets. In addition, to encourage promising companies to grow and become leaders in their fields, contribution to the further militarization of army is a necessity to remain powerful, and at the same time; want to make half the military needs as locally as possible. Also, to invest our wealth locally, in the pursuance to create more employment and economic opportunities.

In closing the country has the human capital, the Kingdom is about to only beginning to place the largest generation of educated citizens into the workforce. It has been blessed with a base of raw materials that few countries can say to have. It has the leadership, geography, and access to partners that can allow it to attain the goals set in The Vision 2030 policy.

To back-peddle now, the country mentioned in the opening paragraph is Japan. But unlike Japan, Saudi Arabia began with a basis for prosperity that Japan could never have for herself. And ultimately Japan went to war under the calculated gamble that imperial conquest and seizure of what she lacked would be more beneficial than participating in the international marketplace. Think of what Japan is today and the story mentioned in the beginning regarding its staggering rise in its formative years as a county.

Now think what can be done here. The Vision 2030 is a brilliant policy, and one that we will look back on as logical, factually-based assessment of where we should be. In some places, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not where it could be, and in others yet not where it should be, but it is not where it was just a mere 30 years ago. It is our time, and Vision 2030 is going to be our guide to regional hegemony.

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