Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 Plan Challenges

vision2030

We intend to provide better opportunities for partnerships with the private sector through the three pillars: Our position as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, our leading investment capabilities, and our strategic geographical position. We will improve the business environment, so that our economy grows and flourishes, driving healthier employment opportunities for citizens and long-term prosperity for all. This promise is built on cooperation and on mutual responsibility. Vision 2030

The Gulf kingdon “Vision 2030” plan seek to increase Saudi Arabia’s non-oil revenue as it faces growing deficits and depletion of financial assets within five years.  The plan offers few specific details on this will be achieved, Reuters observed.

How feasible are some of the ideas?

Arms Industry

Defense Minister and Prince Muhammad Bin Salman discussed the kingdom’s plans to develop its own arms industry, allowing the Saudi military to become fully independent from America weapons sales.

“We’re about to establish a holding company in the weapons industry that will be owned 100% by the government, and will eventually be registered on the stock market.” INN

Tourism

Saudi Arabia has plans to issue select visas to welcome tens of thousands of tourists a year as part of a sweeping national reform plan aimed at showcasing the country’s rich heritage, including pre-Islamic sites, and encouraging Saudis to spend some of their tourist money at home. TimesOfIsrael

Permanent Residency Program

The Green Card-like program and a plan to allow employers to hire more foreign workers above their official quotas for a fee could generate $10 billion a year each,” the deputy crown prince told Bloomberg in an exclusive interview.  SaudiGazette

Foreign expertise and manpower are the core of Saudi labor and management. The plan includes changes that would alter the social structure of the Gulf kingdom by offering improved status to resident expatriates and pushing for women to have a bigger economic role.

Despite having a major oil industry for many decades, many sectors of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry are still dependent on foreign expertise, manpower, etc. So, how is the country going to develop so rapidly the required technological base in a non-oil sector?

At the same time, Saudi Arabia has been a sort of welfare state in which the government has kept the population under control and more or less content with huge handouts. How is the culture going to change so rapidly without causing political instability?

One also needs to have a diversification plan that not only addresses the needs of the nation and its future, but that also puts the nation in a position to be able to export technologically significant products. Huffingtonpost

Women

The plan also envisaged increasing women’s participation in the workforce, something that has already grown quickly over the past five years, to 30 percent from 22 percent.

But Prince Mohammed also said he did not believe Saudi society was ready to end its ban on women driving. reuters

How realistic and wise?

Arms Industry?  Unless Western weapon makers agree to transfer their technology to Saudi Arabia and also supply the expertise and  manpower there so that the Saudi government can set up a domestic weapon industry, I doubt that it can actually  implement the plan, stated Dr. Muhammad Sahimi, an expert in Middle Eastern oil politics and a petroleum engineering professor at the University of Southern California. Huffingtonpost

Saudi Arabia is going after their own people. This Gulf kingdom has increased executions, even executing juveniles, and increased imprisonment of citizens and re-education for jihadists.

They call it the Family House, and it feels like a boutique hotel, if you can overlook the lack of windows, the towering walls outside and the location — inside one of Saudi Arabia’s high ­security prisons for jihadists. The house is designed to give jihadists who behave well a respite from inmate life and help them reconnect with their wives and children, and perhaps even conceive new ones.

The imposing and unmarked facility sits on the edge of the desert, ringed by two high walls interrupted by well­ guarded gates. More than 1,700 inmates — all men — reside in wards that are connected by bright white corridors. The iron gates, doors and guard booths are purple. NYTimes

The world’s most repressive regime, Saudi Arabia is doing similar things that the Shah of Iran tried, a little different, but it did not work in Iran.

The main surprise to me its timing. Why now? What has changed? At the same time, the Saudi political system acquires its legitimacy by making a pact with the religious authorities of the nation, who advocate “pure” and backward-looking interpretations of Islamic teachings — which explains why the society is so conservative.

So, how can a major plan such as this be implemented without any fundamental change in the cultural fabric of society? And, if such changes do occur, what would happen to the pact between the government and the Wahhabi religious authorities? Will that not bring political instability?

Remember that the Shah of Iran tried to do the same in the 1970s, and the Shah’s regime was fully supported by the West. Yet poor planning, unrealistic ambitions, and the lack of infrastructure, a technological base and manpower not only derailed the plans, but also contributed significantly to starting the 1979 Revolution, stated Dr. Muhammad Sahimi.  Huffingtonpost

For years the Saudis have sponsored terrorism, built mosques in other countries and subsidized mullahs to spread Wahhabi Islam  Through gas price manipulations the Saudis have caused recessions and depressions around the globe. Now they have no options with increasing deficits.  The changes in the “Vision 2030” plan would alter the social structure of the Gulf kingdom.  Lack of planning, infrastructure, no technological base…the plan could derail and start a violent revolution that would surpass anything seen in the Middle East.

Online:  A televised interview on Al Arabiya with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (includes transcript)

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