Assessing the performance of 'Saudi Vision 2030'
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Five years ago, when Saudi Arabia proposed Vision 2030, the highlight of the project was improving the economy of the Kingdom, along with bringing reforms in governance, laws, socio-political and cultural sectors, and environmental-related issues. Today, the status of the ongoing project stands firm and clear, moving swiftly towards the end goal. Saud bin Mohammad Al-Sati, Saudi's Ambassador to India, very proudly listed out some of the achievements of Vision 2030. The objective of modernizing and transforming the administration with a diversified approach to policies and laws has been fruitful for the Kingdom as more than 45 percent of the 500 promised reforms have been successfully delivered.
The digitalization initiative taken up by Saudi Arabia has brought efficiency, transparency, and accountability in all the sectors involved. Along with this, Saudi aims to be amongst the top 15 countries dealing with Artificial Intelligence (AI), which aspires to draw an investment of 75 billion Saudi Riyal (SR). With an increase of 331 percent in FDI and the registration of 1278 foreign companies in 2020, the economy of the Kingdom is finding its way to the pre-covid times.
The objective of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to reduce Saudi’s economic dependence on oil, improving health, education, infrastructure, tourism with special attention on women empowerment deserves all the praise. More than 90 reforms aiming to improve the socio-economic status of women have proved to be a success. For a society to thrive, it is pertinent to provide an inclusive space for all to grow as well as contribute to the welfare of the state. Vision 2030 has adopted the same approach that endeavors to diversify the Kingdom.
Another area of focus of Vision 2030 is attracting foreign investments and strengthening bilateral relationships with other countries that have strong trade and cultural ties. One such example is India-Saudi bilateral trade, which stood at 34.03 billion dollars in 2018-2019. After the Riyadh Declaration in 2010, the engagement between both countries increased tremendously, offering economic and cultural sustenance to one another. India's dependence on Saudi for crude oil is an open secret; similarly, Saudi Arabia has shown a keen interest in India's dream of achieving a 5 trillion dollars economy.
India has played a strategic role in Saudi' Vision 2030 and will continue to do so given the result of the tie, which demonstrated to be remarkably profitable for both countries. India, which is Saudi's fourth largest trade partner, makes the largest expatriate community (3 million) in the Kingdom. In 2020 alone, Saudi issued 44 license for Indian investment and the inflow of FDI worth 2.81 billion dollars was reported in the same year, as per the report. What makes the relationship more potent is both countries' staunch disapproval of any form of terrorism and the belief that terrorism is not associated with any particular religion, community, or race.
With the current pandemic creating devastation all around the world, one lesson we all have learnt is to not take anything for granted. Apart from rejuvenating the economy, adopting environment-friendly initiatives, focusing on health infrastructure, redefining educational provisions, and inculcating skill-enhancement, a reassessment of the socio-political status of the tribal groups could add on the already existing heterogeneity of society that Saudi Arabia embodies. The historical prevalence of the tribes of Saudi Arabia is immense as they played a significant role in building national identity and hence cannot be overlooked. A special focus on tribal groups and their identity politics would make the project comprehensive and more acceptable in the mainstream national development. Adopting a more holistic and coherent approach towards the tribal groups, signifying their population in law and governance of the national hierarchy could enhance the power relations shared between them. Saudi has never been a homogenous society, therefore to honor the diversity of the nation, a healthy balance between the state and tribal groups will also reflect positively on Vision 2030.