Upon royal orders, the process of structural reforms continue in the Kingdom, which ends another year of a long path towards promoting economic and social transformation.
It is a path designed to keep abreast of developments sweeping the world and overcome nearby challenges, and to shape a future that can only see light through the fitting and appropriate means…A future, the features of which have started to translate into leaps achieved by ministries working according to governance and performance indicators; a leadership that points to the imbalances and reforms them; a coherent society that is not shaken by a conspiracy or an unjust campaign; and a state budget focused on providing excellent services for the citizens; as well as promising indicators of economic performance.
The deficit is falling while spending is rising, and above all, citizens are always waiting for the best of their country as a basic right. Saudi Arabia is changing for the better, and the Saudis believe that the most beautiful is yet to come.
Women drove the car when many thought it was impossible. Women sat side by side driving their cars in the streets of Riyadh, Jeddah, Khobar, Jazan and other Saudi cities. There has not been a single harassment case against women since they were allowed to drive. This is what is really striking about how this society can evolve and change positively without abandoning its gains and values.
Women’s right to drive was not the only indicator, but only one example. This month, the beautiful Ad-Diriyah hosted the Formula E race, which was watched by about 80 million people around the world.
As soon as the big international race ended, “Winter at Tantora” Festival was launched in Al-Ula, and the world witnessed how this country continues to modernize and heads towards the future at a record speed, while at the same time still upholds its originality. Even the debate taking place within the Saudi society around some of the social reforms is, in my opinion, a healthy debate. Everyone has the right to make a statement and express a point of view. Those who do not like those reforms, for example, have the right not to participate.
This is an inherent right that no one can contest. It is natural that any changes witnessed by society cannot be understood by everyone at the same time. There are those who need a longer period than others to absorb the changes. However, it is agreed that no one has the right to impose personal convictions on others.
The amount of unprecedented popular interaction with the new image of Saudi Arabia gives an indication of the extent to which the Saudis welcome this long-awaited transformation. A quick look at the strong participation of tens of thousands of people in the two events which were held only a few days apart, i.e. the Formula E and “Winter at Tantora”, shows the thirst of the Saudis and their enthusiasm for what is happening in their country.
As we talk about economic and social reforms in Saudi Arabia, many tend to link this transformation to political reform. In principle, reform is a requirement, but it is also a means, not an end. Setting priorities is the responsibility of every society.
There isn’t a single rule for all states to pursue in their reform projects. Societies evolve according to their needs and culture; what suits the French society may not be appropriate for the American culture; and China’s gigantic economic reform should not necessarily be similar to economic reforms elsewhere in the world. Trying to impose certain policies or agendas proved to be harmful more than useful, if not unrealistic. Each society is able to determine its priorities that stem from its particular needs.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets @SalmanAldosary.
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