One of the earliest descriptions of the logic of the state is Aristotle’s description of the relationship between the political system and society as “the most noble coalition.” According to Plato, one of the earliest political theorists in the history of humankind, justice and combating corruption lay the foundations for the state and good governance. These two pillars are key to achieve the state’s integrated role in creating harmony and unity between the components of society and the public sphere. Ibn Khaldoun formulated this idea eloquently when he said that the concept of the state was born with the aim of benefiting humankind.
Amid these philosophical concepts of the strength and survivability of the state, Saudis commemorated the five-year anniversary of the launch of Vision 2030, developed by the Saudi crown prince, dubbed “the godfather of Vision 2030,” and under the auspices of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, with the objective of creating a new Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 has turned from a mere concept and a noble dream to a trademark and model that stretches beyond the borders of the Kingdom, whose people now believe in the Vision and defend it as an existential matter that allows the Kingdom to maintain its leading position. The Vision has now become a comprehensive, full-fledged revolution that the countries of the region can leverage through its fulfilled promises and achievements. And these achievements went beyond the economic aspects to include a holistic vision in managing challenges, such as breaking with extremism, dealing with social changes, recovering from oil-dependence, fighting corruption, restoring political balance in the region, and, most importantly, advancing stability and prosperity in the region, which is the Saudi cornerstone underlying Vision 2030.
The Vision has entered its fifth year, but it faced decades’ worth of challenges along its way that can be summed up in two main challenges. The first was the irrational fear of change and the resistance to it. The second, which is the biggest challenge humanity has faced in decades, was the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kingdom was able to tackle the pandemic successfully and effectively, not to mention its other huge accomplishments in digital transformation, attracting foreign capitals, and breaking with the unjust stereotypes about the Kingdom and its culture, diversity, and heritage.
Today, Saudis celebrate the launch of the innovative Vision 2030 with big dreams and fervent hopes. They have a deep trust in their leadership as despite all the challenges and malicious campaigns against the Kingdom, Saudis believe that the Vision was able to inject new blood in institutions within a short time and turn the Kingdom into an open workshop, in which everyone takes part, contributes to achievements, and engage with the Vision in such a way that paves the road to a new Saudi Arabia.
The Vision was launched through a practical approach and a thorough inspection, rooted in the arduous mission of transforming Saudi Arabia’s economy into a diverse, vital, non-oil economy while facing extremism and terrorism, as well as creating a prosperous arts and culture scene and establishing thriving tourism hubs.
The Vision was never based on theory. Since its launch, self-criticism was one of its core foundations, implemented through combating corruption and pursuing the corrupt, so much so that the Saudi society widely spread the Crown Prince’s statement: “No one who got involved in a corruption case will escape, regardless if he was a minister or a prince.”
Today, the Vision needs to be supported by documentation and research in universities and relevant majors. Research projects must be carried out on the Vision’s concepts, figures, and records. The media also plays a key role, especially in the Vision’s early stages. We all remember when the young Crown Prince who engineered the Vision broke the silence and made media appearances on local and international outlets, in a move that the Saudi society had never seen before. The last of these media appearances was yesterday when he explained and commented on the tiny details that he diligently oversees.
These tiny details range from combating corruption to megaprojects, from women empowerment to redefining means of living, prosperity, and interest in culture and arts. The goal is to revive a society that missed out on a modern lifestyle for decades, which is an exception that should not reflect the image of the new Saudi Arabia, whose long-awaited future depends on the new blood injected in its institutions.
Perhaps one of the biggest Saudi aspirations are the Neom megaproject, the Line project, and the Green Saudi Initiative, which are all practical responses to legitimate questions, both at home and abroad, about the supposed outcomes of Vision 2030. These projects are a few entries in a long list of simultaneous projects that set the foundations for Vision 2030 and promise a comprehensive socio-economic revival that also advances values in the Kingdom and the whole region. Moreover, these projects aim at patching up part of the rifts that occurred in the region, especially in the past few years, which went as far as undermining the concept of the state. The projects also aim to tackle the huge challenges to the region’s security and ability to face the new economies, beyond reliance on oil as a main source of income, which the Crown Prince famously described as an “addiction” that the Kingdom needs to recover from quickly.
The novelty of the Saudi Vision lies in the fact that it went beyond the segregation between economic development on the one hand and its ideological motives and political and cultural base on the other hand. The development projects that were launched were not based on financial proposals or economic analyses that are detached from their ideological contexts. Instead, in a Saudi precedent, “meaning” was added to the development plans, which normally focused on the economy and driving economic growth within a conservative framework and a minimal ceiling that no longer works with the new factors on the ground. Some of these new factors include a young generation, big aspirations, the global market economy, and the influx of large quantities of young Saudi men and women to the job market, coming from experiences they gained abroad or from the education sector, where they face job market challenges and competitiveness along all the modern and advanced tools it requires.
The new Saudi Arabia closed the chapter of tutelage imposed by extremist ideology since the birth of the concept of the state and state institutions. This extremist movement opposed the development process and resisted change and modernization with ideological slogans of an extremist religious nature. Today, Saudis are reaping the fruit of the changes and achievements made by Vision 2030, which is why they fiercely defend it as they realize how much it cost and what its political, economic, and social weight is. Simply put, Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s capital, oil, and the inexhaustible barrel of its successes.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.