Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision plan: A cultural revolution disguised as economic reform

Mohammad Bin Salman, son of King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the new Crown Prince,
Mohammad Bin Salman, son of King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the new Crown Prince,

Over the past three years, as Saudi Arabia’s new heir to the throne was plotting his ascendancy, he surrounded himself with public accounts and private advisers who all drew the same conclusion – the kingdom itself was at serious risk if its people didn’t change their ways.

On every front, the house of Saud faced a struggle – that it would probably lose – to retain its grip on a country that was moving towards implosion. Culturally, socially and economically, Saudi Arabia needed an overhaul and Mohammed bin Salman, who sensationally ousted his uncle, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince earlier this year, pinned both his startling rise and eventual legacy to the most comprehensive reform attempt that kingdom has yet seen.

An absolute monarchy with a bloated, inefficient public sector, a huge government payroll and a resistance to change was never going to be an easy target. Add to that a mindset of entitlement among many Saudi young people and low productivity, and the challenges seem close to insurmountable. Central to the young prince’s plan is unlocking wealth and giving its citizens a buy-in. As sweeteners, he has also thrown in cultural reforms, such as opening cinemas, promoting concerts and other enhancements to social life that many Saudis crave.

The partial sale of Aramco – potentially the world’s biggest company – is the centrepiece of his broad privatisation push.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to present investors with a pristine set of financials for its state energy giant as the kingdom targets a $2tn valuation ahead of its planned initial public offering in 2018.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to present investors with a pristine set of financials for its state energy giant as the kingdom targets a $2tn valuation ahead of its planned initial public offering in 2018.

Aramco is one of the world’s most opaque organisations: a state-owned oil conglomerate that holds the keys and secrets to the kingdom. Tapping into its revenue stream is seen by the country’s rulers and investors alike as a vital step to weaning the economy off its near-total dependency on oil.

Its true valuation is being assessed in all the world’s financial capitals, where initial curiosity about the Saudi transformation has started to turn to tangible interest.

Investment-house chiefs and merchant bankers have been regular visitors to Riyadh this year, where bin Salman – a 31-year-old with carte blanche to reform – has hammered home his Vision 2030 plan, which, if successful, would transform more than just the country’s ossified economy.

“This is cultural revolution disguised as economic reform,” one senior minister told the Observer in Riyadh earlier this year. “Everything hangs on it.”

More than 60% of the Saudi population is aged under 30 and among that demographic are large numbers of disenfranchised youngsters dissatisfied with the current social contract, which is bound up in rigidly conservative rules governing social interactions. Entertainment and fraternisation are mostly outlawed. Jobs are few, and often menial. There are fears that in the absence of credible alternatives, extremist groups may provide a lure.

Overhauling the way that Saudis live is intertwined with changing how they work. Despite enthusiasm among many sectors in society, there is broad resentment among other communities to the scale and scope of the plans. “The leadership is significantly less conservative than the base,” said the senior minister. “None of this will be easy at all.

The stakes involved in such a transformation are enormous. But the price of failure may eclipse them all. A juggernaut has started rolling, and the young prince has staked his kingdom on being able to control it.

The Guardian

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8 responses to “Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision plan: A cultural revolution disguised as economic reform”

  1. A one resource country with a 7th century way of life and wealthy to a fault. Good luck with that if the spigot goes dry.

    1955: First school for girls.
    1970: First university for women
    2017: Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a feminine humanoid robot.
    The decision has garnered mockery from social media users as she may have more rights than actual human women in the Kingdom.

  3. Niemals Avatar

    The ban on veiling finally spreading across Europe.
    Respect it or stay at home.

    Watch how the wife’s of arogant Muslim husband’s are prevented to be interviewed about the veil.

    Arabische Touristen in der Schweiz
    Film von Marianne Kägi.
    Broadcasted March 14th 2018 (on 3sat).

    Veiled Arabian tourists in Switzerland….
    Switzerland is a holiday paradise for Arab tourists. In 2017, they provided almost a million overnight stays.
    The clash of cultures is not always easy.
    Switzerland Tourism, the national tourism organization of Switzerland, invites celebrities from the Gulf States as advertising ambassadors. At the same time politicians collect signatures for a ban on veiling, which would affect mainly Arab tourists.

    Arab tourists love Switzerland because they can recover from the too-hot summer at home. No sooner is the month of fasting than Ramadan over, they set off on their journey: families from Bahrain, the Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Many women wear a Nikab.
    They are veiled with a veil and only show their eyes.

    430 francs a day are spent by Arab guests in Switzerland, more than tourists from other countries. In addition, they stay for almost three days per visit, which is above average. In order to make these guests even more numerous, Switzerland Tourism advertises with movie stars and other celebrities who are to put Switzerland in the best light. According to marketing expert Matthias Albrecht, this type of advertising works particularly well because it appeals to women – and it is often the women who decide where the family goes on holiday.

    Albrecht remembers the production of a soap opera, which filmed an Arab production company in Lucerne two years ago. During the fasting month of Ramadan, an episode was broadcast every day. In the month after Ramadan, the Lucerne Region received more than twice as many visitors from the Gulf States. There were even direct requests to the hotels that occurred in the episodes immediately after the broadcast.

    In Interlaken and Thun, a new soap opera was filmed with stars from the Arab world. “In our production, we show Switzerland as it is: beautiful, quiet, discreet, and the weather is wonderful,” says Mayssa Maghrebi, owner of a film production company. “In addition, one of the main characters Banker.” This soap opera was also a success: 150 million viewers.

    At the same time Swiss politicians want to write a veiling prohibition in the constitution and collect signatures for it. This ban would mainly affect Arab tourists.

    In Ticino there is already a ban on burqa.

    So far, according to Ticino Turismo only five women were therefore penance.

    In Austria – another popular travel destination for Arab tourists – a ban on veiling comes into effect from October.

    Film author Marianne Kägi has accompanied Arab superstars. She was traveling with families boating, paragliding, climbing, and walking, and she managed to talk to women behind the veil. For example, with Khoudour Al Harbi, a young mother from Saudi Arabia, traveling with her husband and two children. She covers her nose and mouth with a dark face veil, the Nikab.

    “Why do you Swiss want to ban our clothing?” She asks. “We are not allowed to travel to Lugano because our veil is banned there, it would be a shame if we were not allowed to come on holiday again.”
    “Verschleiert – Arabische Touristen in der Schweiz” via @SRF

  4. Niemals Avatar

    One of Horst Seehofer points of view is that Islam does not belong to Germany.

    He is in contradiction to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), which itself repeatedly emphasized the opposite!

    My own point of view is that Islam does not belong to Europe.
    Islam is not a part of our cultural heritage.

    1. Islam does not belong in any country unless they strive to be backwards, socially retarded and have a screwed up economy.

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