Delivering on the promises of Saudi Vision 2030
There are many who are disappointed with the latest announcements of new tax regulations, salary cuts and the lack of opportunities
The Saudi Vision 2030 transformation plan can succeed, if it is implemented within a structured, less aggressive and well-balanced process. Enforcing so many changes all at once without proper assessment of the ramifications of each change could lead to dire consequences, some of which could be very difficult to remedy. Moreover, the ambiguities in the plan may be bad for business and could scare away local and international investors.
There are many who are disappointed with the latest announcements of new tax regulations, salary cuts and the lack of opportunities. There are thousands who will not be able to pay their mortgages and car instalments. The delays in state payments to construction firms have created severe financial difficulties for some companies. Some businesses are closing down and young entrepreneurs are gradually seeking opportunities abroad.
There are already a million Saudis working in the Gulf. If the brain drain continues, it will reflect badly on our economy. Unemployment, low wages, inflation and taxation have created a situation that could have dire consequences. Although the transformation plan includes many promises for a modern society, it is difficult to predict how much the average citizen can endure and for how long.
When we drastically change the economic landscape, we are taking risks. How can we be sure that these changes will not make us more inefficient? We could end up creating a bigger gap between the haves and have-nots. We could be instrumental in creating an elitist society and causing extreme poverty. The middle class is the backbone of every society. Is it wise to threaten its solid foundation and compromise its support in nation building? Can the middle class survive the negative consequences of the change?
Saudi Vision 2030 is well-crafted and transparent, but we need to work on the implementation process to make it more achievableSamar Fatany
When we reduce the salaries of employees and impose taxes, can we be certain that this will not backfire and make the deprived employees, demotivated and unwilling to work for less? The official goal is to make the average employee more productive; however, how much will he be willing to contribute after he loses one third of his income?
If he was making SR 9,000 a month and was unproductive, how can we expect him to be more productive by reducing it to SR 6,000? When employees lose a big chunk of their income, can we guarantee that their frustrations will not lead to civil discontent? These uncertainties are scaring investors who happen to be the key players in the transformation plan.
Trust and support
To maintain public trust and support for transformation plans, the government should provide quick wins and short-term incentives. The initial enthusiasm for Vision 2030 is beginning to fade with the new directives that some find disappointing and unconvincing. Decision makers need to come up with a better strategy to gain the trust of the nation and boost public morale before taxing the public with further hardships. The level of frustration among young people remains high due to inadequate opportunities for social mobility and their limited participation in social, economic and political life. There is also an urgency to promote a viable civil society and to build strong civic institutions.
There is no denying that the government has shown great determination to overcome the oil crisis and eliminate the barriers that exist in the labor market. Policy makers are struggling to implement innovative solutions to diversify the economy. Saudi Vision 2030 promises to create more efficient and much needed services to ensure the safety and prosperity of the citizen.
Dr. Arwa Y. Al-Aama, Vice Mayor for Information Technology Affairs at Jeddah Municipality, noted that information and communications technology (ICT) innovations will play a key role in achieving Vision 2030. During the 36th GITEX Technology event held in Riyadh on Oct 20, Dr. Al-Aama stressed the role of ICT innovation in driving the digital transformation in Saudi Arabia, helping the Kingdom achieve its Vision 2030 targets and building a sustainable knowledge-based economy in the post-oil era.
Government departments and Saudi companies are already increasingly adapting themselves to be part of the Vision 2030 program. The Ministry of Justice has plans to link its various courts including criminal and personal status courts with the ministries of Commerce and Investment; Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources; and Labor and Social Development in order to ensure speedy justice. It has already established electronic linkage with government agencies and departments to reduce judicial procedures and speed up the litigation process.
These are positive developments and people’s expectations are very high. However, the plan still lacks essential guarantees to produce good results. The public would be eager to contribute if they are assured of their rights and a life of dignity. The series of interviews with government officials explaining the transformation plan is a step in the right direction.
Officials must keep an open and transparent dialogue with the public. However, it is important for the government to be aware of the people’s grievances and concerns. We all want to see the fruits of the transformation plan and everyone is determined to make it work. Saudi Vision 2030 is well-crafted and transparent, but we need to work on the implementation process to make it more achievable.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 22, 2016.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”