‘More than 50%’: Saudi minister reaffirms government call for women’s central role in reforms

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told Arab News women should be central to achieving Vision 2030.
Updated 09 March 2018
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‘More than 50%’: Saudi minister reaffirms government call for women’s central role in reforms

LONDON: Women should be “central” to achieving the nation’s ambitious Vision 2030, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told Arab News on International Women’s Day.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Saudi-UK CEO Forum in London, the minister said that women being able to drive was “insignificant in the wider scheme of things.”
“What matters,” he said, “is making sure that they have access to skills training and access to jobs. What matters is they have access to investment opportunities so we ensure that the power of women is unleashed to represent their great capabilities.”
Al-Falih added: “There is great potential for all Saudi citizens … certainly women will have more than their share, which should be more than 50 percent.”
Saudi Arabia has announced a string of reforms in recent months aimed at improving opportunities for women in the Kingdom. Alongside being able to drive, Saudi Arabia’s women can now join the Shoura Council, license their own businesses and take part in sports, among many other new freedoms in a country that is in the throes of modernization and change.
Speaking at the same event on a panel, Princess Reema bint Bandar, vice president of the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia, said that women joining the Shoura Council has allowed for the “escalation of women’s needs.”
Princess Reema added the creation of a sports ecosystem for women would be critical to job creation and female empowerment.
She said: “It will benefit women to be included in sports. We want to focus on the ecosystem – we are looking for females that are engineers in the stadiums or trainers which will enable the athletes, for example … which all leads to the end product of the ecosystem: The female athlete.”
Saudi Deputy Minister of Labor Tamader Al-Rammah told the audience that contrary to some global perceptions, women’s empowerment started in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s with the provision of extensive education for females.
“(Women’s empowerment) has been slow but steady,” she said. “Today we are ready for it and we can see the changes are happening rapidly.”
On the controversial subject of gender quotas, Al-Rammah said: “I think the best way to do it is to have the best person for each position. On the other hand, you should remove all barriers to that position.
“Perhaps after some time, we’ll decide that we need quotas. In the meantime, Saudi Arabian women are not shy and the men support us. I don’t think we will need quotas, we will get there.”
Al-Rammah added that the need to funnel women into the workplace was “urgent.”
“We are in a time where we don’t have time,” she said.
Al-Rammah added 95 percent of new Saudi jobs will require digital skills. She said: “It’s very important to set that online goal now. It’s important women get online. What’s making me not sleep at night is not whether women drive, it’s whether they are equipped for the future digitally.”


On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

Kingdom tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 September 2018
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On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

  • “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity," says Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita.
  • Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail.

RIYADH: Saudi Vision 2030 kicked off with the aim of boosting non-oil revenues through capitalizing on current assets, utilizing resources, and starting up new industries.

In order to reach the objectives outlined in the plan, government bodies have launched many initiatives, which have proceeded with the support of the private sector as firms have cooperated through developing their strategic plans, and overcome many challenges. 

The 88th Saudi National Day provides an opportunity not only to celebrate unification, but also to look back on the achievements of Vision 2030 and take stock of how it is paving the way to economic reforms while carving out enhanced influence for its citizens on the world stage.

Here both public and private sector leaders who contribute to the economic transition plan share their thoughts on Vision 2030. 

Homam Hashem, Chief Executive Officer at Kafalah Fund, a financing guarantee program for small- and medium-sized enterprises, commented: ”One of the main objectives of Vision 2030 is to increase the contribution of the SME private sector to 35% of GDP. Small and medium enterprises have a significant impact on raising growth rates by raising financing opportunities and providing ways of success for the advancement of the sector. The program has contributed by raising the ceiling of guarantees for regular guarantees and developing specialized programs for the sectors (tourism, working capital support, and emerging enterprises). It has also attracted new sectors such as businesswomen and promising regions by providing additional incentives and developing many incentives that contribute to support raising local lending rates for small and medium enterprises up to 20% by 2030. The focus was on supporting the sectors that are compatible with the Kingdom's vision 2030 and diversifying the means of support.” 

Dr. Fahad Al-Shathri, Deputy Governor of Supervision at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), said: “In view of the demographic challenges, Saudi Arabia cannot solely rely on the same economic model as during the past five decades, namely oil. Twelve years from now, I would expect the economy to be more dynamic and to have multiple sectors driving growth and job creation, including tourism and logistics. Entrepreneurship will be the central focus for young people in future, inspired by the great accomplishments of their peers. These will be the new drivers of the economy that Vision 2030 is aiming at, and we hope that everyone will strive to contribute to its success.”

As education will play a crucial role in the development of human capital in the Kingdom, we asked Alfaisal University president Dr. Mohammed Al-Hayaza for his take. The former Shoura Council member said: “The Ministry of Education has taken unprecedented measures to ensure that our institutes of higher education are both the best in the region and top-ranked internationally. Vision 2030 has developed job specifications for each field of education, and by utilizing these specifications Alfaisal University is closing the gap between the learning outcomes of higher education and that of the demands of the job market through continued targeted alignment.”

Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita, Vice-Rector for administrative and financial affairs at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, commented: “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity. 

The Vision will safeguard the Kingdom against dependence on circumstantial changes of the natural resources market and being influenced by external factors that are beyond our control, while empowering the Kingdom to create change and exert influence that surpass the local reality to direct the international compass and take the initiative, particularly in the economic field, in order to guarantee a bright future for the future generations.”

Looking to the real estate sector, Ehab Al Dabbagh, CEO of real estate development firm Ijmal, said the industry was likely to see big changes in future: “Firstly, the demand for housing products would be met. Technology and industrial progression will play a major role in building a variety of eco-friendly housing products. Houses could be ordered through an online application and fabricated in weeks.”

Another vital contributor in Vision 2030 is the food industry. Engineer Abdul-Mohsen Al-Yahya, who founded the chain of fast food restaurants Kudo, and currently an investor in supply and support at the food sector, said: “From my own experience in food services for more than 30 years in Saudi Arabia, I believe that in future the food service sector will continue to grow with more investments, products diversity and quality will increase, while continuing to become an extension of economic growth in Saudi Arabia and a key industry generating employment opportunities.”

Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, who sits on the Saudi group of information security, said: “The Kingdom has taken pioneering steps, such as establishing the National Cybersecurity Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, and allocating scholarships in the field of information security. (These initiatives) will enable the Kingdom to be at the forefront of countries in the field of cybersecurity by 2030, and will protect the local economy, perhaps attracting foreign investments in various fields of information to be the ideal environment of trained local professionals and advanced laboratories and legislation protection.”