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
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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  • The outdated views about the Kingdom do no justice to the modern Saudi Arabia of 2018 — nor to where it’s heading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.


India and Saudi Arabia take bilateral relationship to new heights

Updated 21 February 2019
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India and Saudi Arabia take bilateral relationship to new heights

  • Indian PM Narendra Modi heralds Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit on a day that delivers a strategic partnership

NEW DELHI: India and Saudi Arabia have taken their bilateral relationship to new heights with a decision to set up a Strategic Partnership Council and hold a summit meeting every two years.

The move was agreed during discussions between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday that yielded five memorandums of understanding in investment, tourism, housing, and information and broadcasting. 

The Saudi crown prince also announced a $100 billion investment in India in areas including energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing. 

Saudi Arabia is also investing in the IT industry, and India can help the Kingdom expand and strengthen its “IT footprint,” he said.

Meanwhile, New Delhi announced e-visa facilities for Saudi citizens to promote trade and tourism. 

The two leaders spoke one-on-one before the start of delegation-level talks. The Saudi crown prince’s visit has “given a new momentum to our age-old relationship,” Modi said in a joint press conference after the meeting.

Modi told the media that Saudi Arabia has agreed to become part of the International Solar Alliance, a group of “solar resource-rich countries” initiated by India to promote solar energy.

The “time has come to convert our energy relationship into a strategic partnership,” he said. “The biggest refinery in the world and Saudi participation in India’s strategic petroleum reserve elevate our relationship from a mere buyer-and-seller relationship.”

Speaking at the joint press conference, the Saudi crown prince agreed. “We are now diversifying our interests in petrochemicals and building storage capacities. We want to cooperate with India, and this will give a new momentum to our relationship,” he said.

The crown prince said that the tie between India and Saudi Arabia goes back in history and “flows in our blood.”

Recalling the visit of Modi to Riyadh in 2016, he said that “since then we have made great strides, and Saudi Arabia has made the investment of $44 million.”

Earlier in the day, the crown prince met with the media at the presidential palace. “The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is in our DNA,” he explained. “Today, we want to be sure that the relationship is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries, and with the leadership of Mr. President and the Prime Minister, we can create good things for both countries.”

The crown prince expressed his admiration for Modi. “He is the elder brother and I am his younger brother.”

On the sidelines of yesterday’s talks, 400 business leaders from India and Saudi Arabia gathered in the capital under the banner of the Saudi India Forum to discuss opportunities for business cooperation.

“India and Saudi Arabia are undergoing a paradigm shift, and both countries need to cooperate strategically to realize the potential of the change,” said Dr. Faisal Al-Sugair, head of the Saudi Center for International Strategic Partnerships, in his inaugural address. 

“We want Indian companies to become strategic partners in Saudi Arabia’s march to realize (the) 2030 Vision.”

Yousef Al-Benyan, of the Saudi petrochemical company Sabic, said that “both India and Saudi Arabia are undergoing transformation, and at this stage we can do so many things together to realize the potential of the young generation.”

Azim Premji, of the Indian IT company Wipro, underlined the importance of “using India’s IT know-how” to access the knowledge and service industry in the country.

Indian foreign policy experts see the crown prince’s tour as a landmark development. “Mohammed bin Salman’s visit marks a paradigm shift in the relationship between New Delhi and Riyadh,” said Dr. Zakir Hussain, a New Delhi-based foreign policy expert. 

“The visit reveals  a mature partnership, and underscores the importance both countries place on each other’s growth and prosperity,” he said.