Saudi Arabia is proud to mark the fifth anniversary of Vision 2030 launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under the supervision and generous patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
I personally remember when this Vision was launched, with its various programs and ambitions, and how the world received it with unparalleled admiration, even if some of this admiration was tinged with caution. Perhaps because the Kingdom was carrying a heavy legacy at the time, many countries refrained from being optimistic about the possibility for major change, especially in tricky issues, such as the phasing out of dependence on oil, which economists describe as the crown jewel of the Saudi economy and without which the Kingdom cannot survive; women’s rights and empowerment; and youth and their current and future needs and challenges. Also, Vision 2030 faced reservations due to the fact that it seemed impossible to accomplish in such a short period of time, faced with obstacles and challenges from all sides.
I admit that at the first launch of Vision 2030, I doubted that such profound transformations in Saudi society could happen so quickly. I also expected that it would be met with rejection and suspicion concerning some of its outputs.
But the early achievements of the Vision, the faith in it at home and abroad, and the enthusiasm to make it a model to be emulated, made the doubters - myself included - happy with the persistence of the political leadership. The Vision is led by its architect, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and behind him the new generations of youth eager to achieve it and turn it into their battle, paving the way for the future, an embodiment of the Crown Prince’s promise of “a bold, achievable plan for an ambitious nation. It expresses our long-term goals and hopes, and builds on the strengths and unique capabilities of our nation. It charts our aspirations for a new stage of development, the goal of which is to create a vibrant society in which all citizens can realize their dreams, hopes and aspirations for a prosperous national economy.”
Truth be told, Mohammed bin Salman achieved a double win. Not in believing in the Vision and ignoring the voices that put obstacles in its way; rather, there is something important that did not receive much attention, which is unleashing the potential of Saudi youth, namely millennials who understood his language perfectly and met his ambitions with great faith. They consider this a miracle of progress from which there is no turning back, and that they are deeply engaged in as part of their daily lives, already reaping the fruits of the effort and determination to change.
As for the skeptics, the Crown Prince has been patient in their regard, engaging them in lengthy discussions, including economists, thinkers, opinion leaders, media experts, and scholars, each according to his or her field and specialization. The process represented a major arena for Saudi society to discuss the Vision and for the Crown Prince to hear their doubts and reservations, discuss the reasons behind these doubts, and present before them in all transparency - buoyed by confidence and optimism - his hopes for empowerment and prosperity for the nation. He showed them that the time has come for a new Saudi Arabia that casts away some of the burdens of the past without straying from its principles and identity or from its past that was built by our ancestors, which formed an added value to the outputs of the Vision later.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a promise that has come true, silencing the doubters, especially those in the Western media, which, after successive achievements, turned into radio silence. In the meantime, we are seeing, day after day, the Vision’s objectives being realized, from the IPO of Aramco to a greater increase in women’s rights and empowerment over the past five years than what was achieved over the last 50. These achievements also span the modern lifestyle, especially in culture, arts, and sports, meeting the needs of younger generations for entertainment and initiatives related to the future, the most recent of which was announced in the field of tourism.
It would be hard to enumerate the Vision’s projects, the hopes it holds, and the growth and benefit it promises for all spectrums of society. Two wins stand out among them, the first is the Crown Prince’s promise years ago to completely shut down corruption, extremist rhetoric, and terrorist ideology, all of which has been fulfilled. Today, a corrupt official or an extremist has no place in our society as tolerance and moderation have spread at all levels. The second is launching the localization of the military industry. Observers of the situation in our Middle East are aware of what this represents in the balance of power in the midst of today’s conflicts. This does not mean favoring warfare as a way forward, but rather, you cannot make the world respect your point of view without being backed up by a force to protect it.
The fulfillment of the Vision over the past five years has had its challenges and difficulties. From the war to support legitimacy in Yemen, to the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic and the excellent way the Kingdom has managed the crisis, not to mention the regional and international conspiracies that want to see the Vision falter and put an end for this new wave of Saudi progress, all these hurdles were thrown at the Kingdom, but it will continue on its path thanks to its ambitious leadership and good governance.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arabian outlet Asharq al-Awsat.