Mohammad bin Salman and the end of the oil era
Decision makers in Gulf countries who've made use of massive oil resources know well that the commodity will be depleted
Every cloud has a silver lining. Decision makers in Gulf countries who've made use of the massive amounts of oil over the years know well that the commodity will sooner or later be depleted. For over 50 years, they have formulated policies and strategies based on these circumstances.
Those who ridiculed the use of oil said that one generation will wake up to find that the black gold has dried out and people have returned to their tents, bidding farewell to a land that was once rich but is now depleted of its resources. However, in the 21st century, the issue of cutting oil dependency has become the major aim to be achieved in the coming decades.
My recent interview with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – who devised the Saudi Vision 2030 and which was approved by the cabinet – dealt with the issue of oil and cutting oil dependency.
During the interview, the prince spoke about what his grandfather had once said: "King Abdulaziz and the men who worked with him in all parts of the Kingdom for the establishment of the state did not depend on oil. They established the Kingdom without depending on oil, and they run this state without oil, and lived in this state without oil. They defied the British colonialism where Britain could not take an inch from Saudi Arabia's land without depending on oil but depending on men alone. (But now, it's as if oil) has become our constitution: the Quran, the Sunnah and then the oil. This is very serious. We have a case of addiction to oil in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That issue is serious. This is what disrupted the development of many sectors in the past years."
It is clear to this young prince what his society wants and he insists on raising awareness among people, while reminding them of the need for unityTurki Al-Dakhil
This is the an extremely important point. According to sociologist Frauke Liesenborghs, "progressive innovations designed to confront the future's demand will not achieve their aims unless by winning over the currently acquired interests. The models adopted and the current estimates and information play an important role in the struggle regarding the possibility to shift from using oil.”
It's not easy to escape the captivity of oil as this requires change in culture. It also requires economic and administrative restructuring. Prince Mohammad bin Salman was very frank when he requested everyone to get ready for the post-oil era as oil is not "sacred" and it's not the country's "constitution."
The oil era was essential in laying out Saudi Arabia's infrastructure. Oil has enriched societies, provided a livelihood for generations and developed economy. However, sanctifying it and turning it into a resource the end of which will be a loss is a worry that has led to suggestions that oil is the "corrupting" element that turned society into a consumer.
The vision which Saudi Arabia has adopted is exceptional and historical. When the third most important man in the country talks about accountability, moving beyond the oil era, the need to eliminate corruption and achieving equality among social classes, he enhances the sense of reassurance that the post-oil era’s features have made clear.
It is clear to this young prince what his society wants and insists on raising awareness among people, while reminding them of the unity of the path taken.
Even before we hear about the "end of the oil" era, Saudi Arabia has heralded the beginning of a phase to cut oil dependency. Preempting the challenge and preparing for it is a lot better than waiting and, in the case of Saudi Arabia, as the prince said, the black gold will turn into a resource that is part of other resources and not just the sole and sacred one.
He has presented a clear vision, his logic is scientific and is supported by data and empirical evidence. The days of making poetic statements to reassure people are over, and an era of synergy between the society and leadership to devise a developmental path that establishes for the new Saudi Arabia has begun.
This article was first published by al-Bayan on Apr. 27, 2016.
Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.