Eight years since its launch, Saudi Vision 2030 is already well ahead of schedule

Special Eight years since its launch, Saudi Vision 2030 is already well ahead of schedule
Vision 2030 is built upon three pillars: Building a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation, rolled out in phases. (AFP)
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Updated 25 April 2024
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Eight years since its launch, Saudi Vision 2030 is already well ahead of schedule

Eight years since its launch, Saudi Vision 2030 is already well ahead of schedule
  • Launching Vision 2030 in 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed to improve the Kingdom’s business environment
  • Today, the economy is creating employment opportunities for citizens and long-term prosperity for the nation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s transformation has involved many authors: The government, Saudi citizens, the private sector, and international partners. Their combined efforts have meant that by 2023 — the Vision 2030 midpoint — the plan was already ahead of schedule.

Eight years since its launch, the social reform and economic diversification blueprint’s promise is quickly being realized, with 87 percent of its 1,064 initiatives deemed completed or on track.

At its core, Vision 2030 is built upon three pillars: Building “a vibrant society,” “a thriving economy,” and “an ambitious nation,” rolled out with a phased approach, allowing the Kingdom to adapt, evolve, and become more agile.

As Saudi Arabia approaches the end of phase two — and the start of the 2025 implementation phase — the economic strategy, which was not without its doubters early on, is no longer a mere idea but a genuine transformation.




Eight years since the Kingdom's social reform and economic diversification blueprint was launched, 87 percent of the 1,064 initiatives are deemed completed or on track. (Getty Imaes/AFP)

By the end of 2023, some 197 of Vision 2030’s 243 key performance indicators had been fully achieved. Of those, 176 exceeded their targets.

A similar trend is evident across various socio-economic domains, prompting the nation to reconsider and set higher ambitions and targets for 2030. 

A technicolor economy

Launching the economic diversification plan in 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed to improve the Kingdom’s business environment, allowing the economy to flourish and drive employment opportunities for citizens and long-term prosperity for the nation.

From increasing foreign direct investments, growing the number of small and medium-sized enterprises and opening up new streams in fields like tourism and entertainment, the nation documented a record contribution from non-oil earnings.

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By the end of 2023, revenues surpassed $121.8 billion and contributed 50 percent to the real gross domestic product.

The Kingdom’s non-oil GDP amounted to over $503.6 billion, soaring past the baseline of over $404.9 billion and edging close to the target goal of $515.6 billion.

This comes as Saudi Arabia has implemented a series of economic and regulatory undertakings to stimulate private sector growth and attract foreign investment. These reforms include easing restrictions on foreign ownership in various sectors, streamlining business regulations and privatizing state-owned enterprises.

These ongoing shifts and Riyadh’s strategic location at the crossroads of three continents made it a valuable investment destination for global businesses. In 2023, more than 180 companies obtained permits to open regional offices in the Saudi capital.




Saudi Arabia's economic diversification plan has allowed the economy to flourish and drive employment opportunities for citizens. (Supplied) 

Concurrently, the private sector’s contribution to the total GDP amounted to 45 percent, marking a notable increase from the baseline of 40.3 percent and moving closer to the Vision’s target of 65 percent.

Echoing this notion, foreign direct investment showed notable growth, contributing 2.4 percent to the country’s GDP. 

The Kingdom’s sovereign wealth entity, the Public Investment Fund, had assets under management of over $749 billion in 2023, surpassing the annual target of approximately $720 billion. 

These successes prompted the Kingdom to rank first in the Middle East and North Africa region for venture capital investment in 2023, capturing 52 percent of the total capital deployed in the area with a value of $1.4 billion.

Furthermore, the economic participation and opportunities sub-index has increased to 0.637 from the baseline of 0.33, surpassing the annual target of 0.592.

An equitable workforce

Saudi Arabia achieved its lowest unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in 2023, compared to 12.3 percent in 2016, surpassing the 2023 target of 8 percent and nearing the Vision 2030 mark of 7 percent.

Yet, the nation’s most notable employment achievement remains characterized by a previously unsung section of its labor force, with female participation now standing at an all-time high of 35.5 percent, surpassing the 2030 goal.

Saudi Arabia has seen a growing number of women taking on leadership roles in various sectors, including government, business, academia, and media.

This success was further attributed to a government that has actively worked to expand job opportunities for women across a wide range of sectors, including healthcare, education, and finance as well as technology and hospitality.

Furthermore, Vision 2030 encourages female entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses owned and operated by women. Initiatives such as loan programs, business incubators, and networking events provide support and resources for aspiring female entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses.

This led the nation to announce that it will be amending its previously highlighted Vision 2030 target for female participation.

SME boom

Small and medium enterprises, which are positioned to become a vital part of economic development in the Kingdom and an enabler to achieving Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, have recorded over 200 percent growth since the launch of the national plan.

This growth encapsulated SR10 billion ($2.67 billion) in financial aid for SMEs and 6.7 million employees in the sector by the end of 2023. 

In 2022, the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank was established by the Council of Ministers as one of several development funds and financial institutions affiliated with the National Development Fund. 

The SME Bank aims to increase financing provided to the sector and enhance institutions’ contributions to providing innovative funding solutions that help achieve stability for this sector.

Therefore, the Vision’s initiatives have further supported several programs, centers, and services provided by the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority, also known as Monsha’at.

Among them is the “Tomoh” program, a community for fast-growing SMEs, aiming to stimulate their growth through services and programs. Tomoh contributed to listing 18 enterprises in the Saudi Stock Exchange parallel market “Nomu.”

 


EU states give final endorsement to AI rules

EU states give final endorsement to AI rules
Updated 21 May 2024
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EU states give final endorsement to AI rules

EU states give final endorsement to AI rules
  • The EU says the law will protect citizens from AI’s dangers while harnessing the technology’s potential in Europe

RIYADH: EU states on Tuesday gave their final backing to landmark rules on artificial intelligence that will govern powerful systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

The European Parliament had already approved the law in March and it will now enter into force after being published in the official EU journal in the coming days.

The EU says the law will protect citizens from AI’s dangers while harnessing the technology’s potential in Europe.

First proposed in 2021, the rules took on greater urgency after ChatGPT arrived in 2022, showing generative AI’s human-like ability to produce eloquent text within seconds.

Other examples of generative AI include Dall-E and Midjourney, which can produce images in nearly any style with a simple input in everyday language. The law known as the “AI Act” takes a risk-based approach: if a system is high-risk, a company has a tougher set of obligations to fulfill to protect citizens’ rights.

There are strict bans on using AI for predictive policing and systems that use biometric information to infer an individual’s race, religion or sexual orientation. Companies will have to comply by 2026 but rules covering AI models like ChatGPT will apply 12 months after the law becomes official.

Pledge

The world’s leading companies pledged at the start of a mini summit on AI to develop the technology safely, including pulling the plug if they can’t rein in the most extreme risks.

World leaders are expected to hammer out further agreements on artificial intelligence as they gathered virtually to discuss AI’s potential risks but also ways to promote its benefits and innovation.

The AI Seoul Summit is a low-key follow-up to November’s high-profile AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in the UK, where participating countries agreed to work together to contain the potentially “catastrophic” risks posed by breakneck advances in AI.

The two-day meeting — co-hosted by South Korea and the UK — also comes as major tech companies like Meta, OpenAI and Google roll out the latest versions of their AI models.

They’re among 16 AI companies that made voluntary commitments to AI safety as the talks got underway, according to a British government announcement. 

The companies, which also include Amazon, Microsoft, France’s Mistral AI, China’s Zhipu.ai, and G42 of the UAE, vowed to ensure safety of their most cutting edge AI models with promises of accountable governance and public transparency.

The pledge includes publishing safety frameworks setting out how they will measure risks of these models.


Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official

Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official

Saudi Arabia is a model of sustainable aviation practices: ICAO official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is a “model” for sustainable practices in the aviation section, said president of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council.

In an interview with Arab News during the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh, Salvatore Sciacchitano emphasized the Kingdom’s position as an emerging leader in sustainable aviation. 

Speaking about the global agenda to reduce carbon emissions, Sciacchitano said: “Saudi Arabia is in this sense a model because their plan of development is in the perspective of sustainability. This is very positive.” 

“They have projects for low-carbon emission fuels. That means fossil fuels but to produce reduced emissions thanks to green energy that is used for the production. So this is a good direction,” he added.  

The ICAO official highlighted the importance of adhering to international standards and practices, saying that Saudi Arabia’s aviation growth aligns with global standards.  

He stated: “The regulations are there, we call SARPs, standards and recommended practices, these are applicable all over the world to all 193 (member) states of ICAO.” 

Highlighting the role of the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, Sciacchitano praised the support of the authority to the Regional Safety Oversight Organization, which is a way to put resources together at the regional level. 

“Let me say that the GACA is well advanced in terms of programs, projects, training, and also providing support at (the) regional level,” he said. 

“In this sense, Saudi Arabia is well prepared, not just to support its own development, but also to support the development of the region,” he added. 

Sciacchitano said ICAO is there to support its member states. Although he believes that the Kingdom is fully capable of achieving its goals independently. “We absolutely support them with our expertise,” he added. 

Sciacchitano predicted a significant increase in global air traffic, with the number of passengers expected to reach 11.5 billion by 2050, up from the current 4.6 billion.  

He emphasized the need for technological advancements to accommodate this growth, stating that technologies will allow the world to accommodate more airplanes in the air and more space on the ground. 


Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum

Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum
Updated 21 May 2024
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Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum

Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply deal between Aramco, GO Petroleum

KARACHI: The Competition Commission of Pakistan has granted a time-bound exemption on relevant clauses of a product supply agreement between Saudi oil giant Aramco and Gas & Oil Pakistan Ltd.,  known as GO Petroleum, for the import and sale of petrol and diesel products to Pakistan, the CCP said on Tuesday.

Aramco Trading Co. Fujairah FZE Ltd. is one of the world’s largest integrated energy and chemicals companies, while GO Petroleum is an oil-marketing company registered in Pakistan that operates a network of retail outlets across the country that sell petrol, diesel and lubricants.

Under the agreement, ATC Fujairah intends to meet GO Petroleum’s demand for essential petroleum products for its outlets, which primarily includes petrol and diesel.

“The parties submitted to the CCP that this arrangement is expected to achieve economies of scale in procurement for GO Petroleum, potentially resulting in better prices for Pakistani consumers,” the CCP said in a statement.

“The exemption sought was on exclusivity aspects of the commercial agreement to supply 100 percent demand of imported products for GO Petroleum’s retail outlets. The CCP has accordingly granted exemption on the product supply agreement with certain conditions included therein.”

The CCP grants exemptions pursuant to Section 9 of the Competition Act, 2010, ensuring that such exemptions have economic benefits that outweigh anti-competitive effects.

“The CCP’s conditions stipulate that both parties must refrain from engaging in anti-competitive activities. Importantly, the exemption does not include approval on any pricing terms and mechanisms related to the products,” the CCP statement read.

“Additionally, as the agreement has referred to certain off specification products, however approval of concerned sector regulator should be ensured for import and sales. The applicants have also been directed to ensure required approvals on their terminals and storage facilities by relevant authorities to be used in the execution of this agreement.”

Subject to the conditions, the CCP said, it had granted the exemption until June 2026 and both applicants could approach it for an extension with required details and also identifying the benefits that have accrued to the improved distribution network of petroleum products and enhanced competition in the market.

Last month, the CCP approved Saudi oil giant Aramco’s move to acquire a 40 percent stake in Go Petroleum, officially marking the Saudi company’s entry into Pakistan’s fuels retail market.

The CCP said it had authorized the merger after determining the acquisition would not result in the acquirers’ “dominance” in the relevant market post-transaction. The acquisition would help bring much-needed foreign direct investment in Pakistan’s energy sector, contributing to economic growth and development of the country, it added.

In February 2019, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia inked investment deals totaling $21 billion during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Islamabad. The agreements included about $10 billion for an Aramco oil refinery and $1 billion for a petrochemical complex at the strategic Gwadar Port in Balochistan.

Both countries have lately been working to increase bilateral trade and investment, and the Kingdom recently reaffirmed its commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.


Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official

Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official

Saudi Arabia to reveal new innovative tourism strategy in 2024: top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to unveil a new tourism strategy this year utilizing artificial intelligence and seamless technology, according to a top official.

Speaking to Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum 2024, Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special adviser at the Ministry of Tourism, noted that the plan seeks to maximize the Kingdom’s assets including culture, history, heritage and hospitality.

“Right now, the ministry, under the leadership of his excellency, is developing the new strategy, and that new strategy is going to include several new things, such as the use of AI, for instance, seamless and many other technologies that are important for growth,” Manzo said.

She added: “(The) strategy, hopefully is going to be released this year and is going to be shared with the world. The strategy that we have right now was developed in 2019. We accomplished the milestone of the 100 million tourists, domestic and international, seven years ahead (of schedule).”

Manzo also discussed the importance of sustainability so people are still “enjoying” the world today while ensuring resources are preserved for future use

This concept involves multiple facets, including economic, environmental, and social considerations.

“For 30 years, we have been measuring and that’s why we know that 10 percent of the global gross domestic product before the pandemic (came from travel and tourism), and we’re going to reach that number this year again,” Manzo said.

She added that before the COVID-19 outbreak there were 330 million jobs in the industry, adding: “This year, we’re hoping to break a record with 348 million. One out of 10 jobs depends on this sector, so the economic aspect is very clear. The social aspect also is quite interesting — 54 percent women, 30 percent youth.”

Manzo emphasized the positive social impacts of travel and tourism, such as poverty reduction and the prevention of illegal migration by providing local job opportunities.

Despite these benefits, there had been a lack of clear measurement regarding the sustainability of this industry.

However, a significant study sponsored by Saudi Arabia, particularly by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb and the ministry, addressed this gap.

Released last year, this provided comprehensive insights into the environmental impact of travel and tourism, revealing that 8.1 percent of greenhouse emissions are attributable to this sector.

“Now that we know that, then we can go industry by industry to understand what is the impact, and from that 8 percent, 47 percent is due to transportation and it could be aviation, it can be road, it can be cruising all the different aspects,” she said.

Manzo added: “Now, the reality is that aviation counts between 1.5 and 2 percent of the global emissions. But as I said in the panel, we cannot see this in an isolated approach. We need to see this from a holistic point of view. We need to understand what are the quick wins.”

Therefore, she noted that this does not mean stopping flying is the solution, as it has “very severe consequences.”

She said: “Millions of people can lose their jobs. We saw that during the pandemic, travel provides food on the table to millions of people from around the world. That’s a factor that we have to consider.” 

Mazo stated that the right approach should be finding ways to travel in a more sustainable way, as she referred to a statement by Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman ,when he said that the Kingdom is leading this transition.

Furthermore, the adviser stressed the importance of the Future Aviation Forum as it reflects the significance of connectivity within and outside the Kingdom as emphasized by Al-Khateeb on the first day.

“We need to increase the connectivity within the Kingdom, to the Kingdom and of course outside in order to increase the trade and do business and have more exports, more imports, and all of the above,” she stated.

Manzo continued: “In that regard it is very important to continue with the partnerships, not only at the destination level, but also at the corporate level and with the different entities, with the government. Without transport, we don’t have tourism, and tourism is very important for transport also to grow.”

 

 

 


Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

Saudi Arabia closes May sukuk issuance at $860m 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has completed its riyal-denominated sukuk issuance for May at SR3.23 billion ($860 million), according to the National Debt Management Center. 

In April, Saudi Arabia issued sukuk amounting to SR7.39 billion, while it was SR4.44 billion and SR7.87 billion in March and February respectively. 

NDMC revealed that the Shariah-compliant debt product for May was divided into two tranches.

The first tranche valued at SR71 million is set to mature in 2029, while the second one amounting to SR3.16 billion is due in 2036. 

In March 2024, NDMC concluded its second government sukuk savings round, with a total volume of requests reaching SR959 million, allocated to 37,000 applicants.

NDMC, at that time, said that the financial product, also known as Sah, offers a return of 5.64 percent, with a maturity date in March 2025. 

In April, a report released by S&P Global said that sukuk issuance globally is expected to hover between the $160 billion to $170 billion mark in 2024, representing a steady momentum from $168.4 billion in 2023 and $179.4 billion in 2022. 

According to the US-based firm, the issuance of this Shariah-compliant debt product began on a strong footing in 2024, with Saudi Arabia becoming a key contributor to the performance. 

The credit rating agency also noted that the sukuk market will continue to grow in the near term driven by financing needs in core Islamic finance countries, along with the ongoing economic transformation programs which are currently underway in nations like Saudi Arabia. 

“The market has started 2024 on a strong footing, with total issuance reaching $46.8 billion at March 31, 2024, compared with $38.2 billion at March 31, 2023. Saudi Arabia was a key contributor to this performance,” said S&P Global. 

It added: “The drop in issuance volumes in 2023, which mainly resulted from tighter liquidity conditions in Saudi Arabia’s banking system and Indonesia’s lower fiscal deficit, was somewhat compensated by an increase in foreign currency-denominated sukuk issuance.” 

In April, another report released by Fitch Ratings also echoed similar views and noted that global sukuk issuance is expected to continue growing in the coming months of this year. 

Fitch noted that economic diversification efforts and the rapid development of the debt capital market in the Gulf Cooperation Council region will propel the growth of the sukuk market in the coming months.