Driving licenses for women will boost economic growth in Saudi Arabia: Experts

A Saudi woman speaks with a taxi driver to get a ride in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in this September 28, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 October 2017

Driving licenses for women will boost economic growth in Saudi Arabia: Experts

RIYADH: Introduction of driving licenses for women will steer economic growth and reduce dependence on foreign labor in the Kingdom, according to a panel discussion held at the Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh on Tuesday to mark the opening of the new office of Fitch Ratings.
There are 1.3 million foreign house drivers earning salaries of SR33 billion ($8.8 billion) annually. Most women are dependent on these drivers for daily transport to their work places and for their shopping needs.
The discussions were moderated by Ian Linnell, president of Fitch Ratings, and supported by Tim Cooper, a global economist, and James McCormack, managing director and global head of the Sovereign and Suprarnatural Group at Fitch Ratings.
Empowerment of women is part of Vision 2030, which is a highly ambitious program designed to diversify the Kingdom’s revenue sectors and encourage developing non-oil products for necessary exports.
Linnell said the company’s Riyadh office is its second office in the Middle East after Dubai. “We got the license to operate in the Kingdom from the Capital Market Authority (CMA) to conduct credit rating activities in the Kingdom.
“We are delighted to be increasing our commitment in the region with an on-the-ground presence in the Kingdom,” Linnell said, adding that the company has had a solid footprint in the Kingdom for the past two decades covering Islamic finance. He also said that the company intends to hire local analysts to carry out its functions in the Kingdom.
With a leading global financial institutions franchise, Fitch Ratings has a leading market share in financial institutions in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
Earlier in the day, there was a panel discussion on the “Saudi Arabian economy and the evolving debt capital markets in the Kingdom.” Besides Linnell, McCormack and Cooper, participants at the panel discussions included Fahad Al-Deweesh CEO J.P. Morgan Saudi Arabia; Khalid Al-Hussan, CEO Tadawul; Jadwa Chief Economist Fahd Al-Turki; and Ayman Al-Sayari, SAMA deputy governor for investment.

Saudi Arabia’s journey: From 1932 to 2030 and beyond

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a plan to boost renewable energy. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 September 2018

Saudi Arabia’s journey: From 1932 to 2030 and beyond

  • The outdated views about the Kingdom do no justice to the modern Saudi Arabia of 2018 — nor to where it’s heading
  • Saudi Arabia is rich in its youth, its leadership, and its bold plan to transform over the next 12 years in a way it has never done before

RIYADH: There are several shorthand terms for Saudi Arabia bandied around in the press: “Oil-rich,” perhaps, or “the desert Kingdom.”

Neither, of course, does justice to the modern Saudi Arabia of 2018 — nor to where the Kingdom is heading over the next 12 years.

On Sept. 23, Saudi Arabia observes National Day, in recognition of the date in 1932 on which the country was founded by King Abdul Aziz, known in the West as Ibn Saud.

It was during King Abdul Aziz’s reign that oil was discovered in commercial quantities, when in March 1938 “black gold” was struck at the site known as Dammam Well No. 7, or “the Prosperity Well.”

And prosper Saudi Arabia did. The oil boom brought untold riches to the Kingdom — yet the country became over-reliant on the energy industry, forming what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has called an “addiction” to oil.

It is the crown prince’s bold — and, say many, ambitious — Vision 2030 reform plan that aims to overcome that addiction. 

The plan, unveiled in 2016, is a comprehensive blueprint for the future, laying out a strategy, and clear targets, to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

Under the spirit of the plan, a raft of changes have already taken place. Musical concerts and cinemas have made a comeback, women have been given the right to drive as of June this year, and the economy has opened up more to foreign investment. 

Saudi Arabia — despite, as some news outlets tell us, being so “oil rich” — is also embarking on a plan to boost renewable energy. As part of the Vision 2030 program, Saudi Arabia plans to meet 10 percent of its power demand from renewable sources by 2023 — and it fully expects to exceed this target. The country’s planned megacity — the $500 billion NEOM project, announced last year — will run entirely on renewables. 

It is for these reasons that Arab News is looking forward, rather than back, on this year’s National Day.

In our Saudi National Day section, we delve into myriad aspects of this changing Kingdom, from how the youth — surely the country’s most valuable resource — perceive the future of the country, to the various megaprojects underway, women’s empowerment, and the entertainment revolution being seen in country where cinemas, until very recently, were banned. 

This is complemented by a new section on the Arab News website called “Road to 2030” where you will find all the latest news, analysis and opinion about the reforms. 

As is becoming increasingly clear to the world, Saudi Arabia is no longer a “desert Kingdom,” nor will it be oil-rich forever. 

It is rich in other ways: In its youth, its leadership, and its bold plan to transform over the next 12 years in a way it has never done before.