AT a time when the world economies are in doldrums due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 and other developments on the international scene including Russia-Ukraine war, Saudi Arabia continues its march on the road to progress and prosperity — thanks to the visionary policies and modernization plans initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
This is also evident from the budget surplus of 57.49 billion riyals ($15.33 billion) that the Kingdom posted in the first quarter of 2022, the highest in six years.
No doubt, oil revenues grew by 58% but 7% growth in non-oil revenue is manifestation of the fact that measures aimed at diversification of the economy have started paying dividends.
In fact, the Kingdom is scaling new heights of progress and development as under the dynamic leadership of MBS, an ambitious Vision-2030 was not just launched but the Crown Prince has also taken upon himself to ensure realization of the envisaged goals and targets.
A new five-year economic strategy has also been incorporated into the Vision under which the Public Investment Fund (PIF) will pump at least $40 billion a year into the local economy, double its assets to $1.07 trillion, contribute $320 billion to non-oil GDP and create 1.8 million jobs by 2025.
According to MBS, it will focus on launching new sectors, empowering the private sector, developing the PIF’s portfolio, achieving effective long-term investment, supporting the localization of sectors and building strategic economic partnerships.
The Vision itself has ambitious targets including increasing the capacity for Umrah visitors from 8 million to 30 million, lowering unemployment, increasing women’s participation in the workforce and increasing foreign investment.
These are not mere slogans as practical steps have been initiated to increase capacity of Harmain Sharifain to accommodate more visitors, new and modern facilities are being added with the passage of time, and every year more and more Saudi women are joining the Kingdom’s workforce in a host of industries long dominated by men, in large part thanks to reforms introduced under the Vision 2030 reform agenda.
The Kingdom brought forward legislation that prevented gender discrimination in wages, occupations and working hours, and enabled women to incorporate businesses without obtaining prior consent.
The “Invest in Saudi” initiative increased the number of new foreign investment in the kingdom by 54 per cent in 2019 from 2018 and it moved up 29 places in the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business Index in 2020, which helped boost the image of the Kingdom as an investment-friendly destination.
Digital transformation features prominently in Vision 2030 and achievements in realization of the targets can be gauged by the fact that more than 3.5 million households in the kingdom now have access to fibre optic internet.
The Crown Prince also launched a successful campaign against corruption as it has already yielded more than an estimated $106 billion in financial settlements from many corporates, executives, businesses and high profile figures.
Analysts widely believe that the economic and structural reforms that have been implemented since the launch of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 have contributed to reducing the negative impact associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The strategy adopted by KSA to handle the pandemic assumed importance and relevance as millions of Muslims from all parts of the globe visit two holy places for religious obligations.
It is because of the success of this policy that the kingdom’s economy is forecast to expand 7.4 per cent this year, driven by higher oil revenue, a projected improvement in the country’s non-oil gross domestic product, a continued economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and its efforts to diversify the economy.
Despite projections that the country is expected to post a surplus of 90bn riyals, or 2.5 per cent of GDP, in 2022, there are active plans to cut public spending, which speak volumes about commitment of the leadership to promote good governance.
Saudi Arabia is also playing an important role in promoting and advancing the cause of regional and global peace and security.
Its leadership has been instrumental on the front of bridge-building between the Islamic world and other civilizations especially in an effort to portray Islam as a religion of peace and amity.