Saudi Arabia is steadily growing to be a formidable player in the 21st century on the world stage, especially with its massive oil industry, staunch relationship with the United States, and the crucial role it plays in middle eastern geopolitics and international affairs. Yet, at the same time, development in Saudi Arabia has been hindered over the decades due to its conservatism and hidebound ideals.
Saudi Arabia On the Global Stage
Although statistics and figures on the country’s poverty rate remain elusive, it is predicted that a quarter of the population may live under the threat of poverty, which is considered to be about $17 a day, or $530 a month. Income disparities also continue to be on the rise and the unemployment rate currently stands at about 12.7 percent.
Moreover, even though government-run welfare programs and spending systems like Zakat have helped aid development in Saudi Arabia in the past, the country still prioritizes the strength of its oil industry and its own self-image above all else.
Fortunately, Saudi Arabia now experiences a new wave of revolutionary change via the new crown-prince Salman’s reign. The prince’s new policies usher in a new period gradually shifting away from the traditional pivotal ideologies of Wahhabism, pan Arabism and conservatism that Saudi Arabia once stood for. The Saudi economy has great potential and capacity due to the country’s relatively young, and working-age population.
In its new era of social and economic changes, the Kingdom hopes to achieve its Vision 2030 reform plan and focus on promoting greater social and political stability, sustainability and transparency. Vision 2030 also concentrates on important factors like improving standard of living and education reform so as to make future workers more skilled and competitive for the labor market.
Moreover, Prince Salman’s policies will hopefully lead to greater social progress and development in Saudi Arabia, owing to its focus on anti-corruption measures, gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Anti-Corruption and Empowerment Efforts
There has been a widespread crackdown on problems like the income gap and corruption as the country’s new anti-graft campaign to ‘clean up the economy’ goes into full swing. The anti-corruption campaigns have already yielded more than an estimated $106 billion in financial settlements from many corporates, executives, businesses, and high profile figures from both the government and the royal family.
Furthermore, with the country’s focus on socially and economically empowering women, notable social transformations will take place in Saudi society as women are given more places in the workforce and granted permits and licenses for investment and commercial activities. Consequently, the National Transformation Program 2020 also aims to boost employment opportunities among women and the youth population.
Saudi Arabia’s Continued Progress
The ban on female drivers is steadily being lifted and women will also be given more places in the municipalities in the future. In 2017, Saudi Arabia was given a place at the U.N. Women’s Rights Commission for a four- year term.
Due to recently falling oil prices, it is vital for the country to reduce its over-reliance and dependence on the oil industry. Development in Saudi Arabia can be stimulated by future growth in the country’s non-oil sectors and further economic and industrial diversification.
Fortunately, the country’s competitiveness is improving as is its growing independence and decline in the level of imports. The government also hopes to further open up the economy and interact with global markets.
Although social and economic changes in Saudi society will take time to materialize, the liberalization of the country is imperative for building a foundation for long-term sustainable growth in a fast-paced and dynamically changing world.
– Shivani Ekkanath