In the past few days, the political scene was brimming with the activities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who welcomed many ministers and officials, received numerous phone calls, and conducted visits to several countries. Remarkably, the second parties to all those meetings were senior leaders of major regional and international powers. In this context, the main question to be asked relates to the Kingdom’s active political role in the region and the world, and the extent to which the Kingdom has activated novel strategies necessitated by regional and international changes. In fact, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 has pushed many an observer to believe that the Saudi project is purely economic, and that the Kingdom may isolate itself in the coming decade for the sake of this economic project, paying no heed to political activity.
Views of the Saudi development and economic changes range from the overly pessimistic to the extremely hopeful. However, the key point that must be understood is the historical role of Saudi Arabia. The role of the Kingdom in King Salman’s era cannot be brushed off as a mere traditional historical extension. What’s happening in Saudi Arabia today under the leadership of the Crown Prince is a transformation of the Saudi political, economic, and social roles. External observers do not realize that this is the real image to which the Saudi people and leadership aspire, as the huge movement that the Kingdom is currently witnessing actively involves all the components of the Saudi society, without exception.
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is different from all economic visions and projects, as it is the only vision that involved society in the development stage that discussed society’s deep principles and led it to accept balanced change. We must also remember that Vision 2030 is taking place as a wave of radical changes in technology, social media, and artificial intelligence takes over the world. Today, knowledge has become a source of excellence, and creativity a global trait, and this will enhance the opportunities a country like Saudi Arabia has to invest and compete on an international level in such fields.
Though the idea of the post-oil world is troubling many countries, oil is still, theoretically, decades away from becoming a second-degree factor in the global economy. The world has been looking for oil alternatives since the 1970s, but experts say oil will maintain the power it holds now. The execution of megaprojects in a country like Saudi Arabia is therefore a big deal, as it requires massive degrees of economic openness through reliance on high-production low-risk sectors. In this context, technology represents a great investment opportunity for Saudi Arabia, in a local investment climate that’s poised to reach economic excellence.
The Saudi leadership and society are well aware of the political, economic, and cultural challenges surrounding them. However, the Saudi society is not only proving enthusiastic about the balanced acceptance of changes, like I said before, but it is also looking to reduce societal rules that are not based on an established religious or value-based reference. Saudi Arabia also realizes that it is not the sole country in the region to have advanced its vision for development and growth. Competition, especially in the Gulf, is high on many fronts, because Gulf countries have robust economies and well-established policies.
Ultimately, the Saudi transformation was less of a choice and more of a necessity to uphold the firm political and economic framework in a country like Saudi Arabia, considered to be a political, ideological, and economic power, and, thus, primarily responsible for playing a leading and permanent role at the regional and international levels. Everyone holds Saudi Arabia in high regard and expects a lot from it. The Kingdom has been at the heart of international media and journalism since its third renaissance in the early 20th century; and ever since, the Saudi people and their leaders learned to stand their ground during historical turns.
For five years now, the Kingdom has been living a different story. Aside from its huge leaps forward at the political and economic levels, Saudi Arabia has advanced politically, based on strategies that reflect the sheer size of transformation and inclusion in the outcomes of Vision 2030 under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is working to advance the Saudi transformation while providing logical reasons for it. Today, Saudi Arabia is headed on a path that will undoubtedly be crowned with success, with a new political, economic, societal, and cultural renaissance that requires balanced answers regarding the Saudi transformation and its reasons, as well as the great change that it carries. Today, the whole world knows that Saudi Arabia is headed toward a strategic goal that will increase its responsibilities before the Saudi, regional, and international societies.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh.