Saudi Vision 2030 is a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. Goals include reinforcing economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil industry trade between countries through goods and consumer products, and increasing government spending on the military, manufacturing equipment and ammunition.
The first details were announced on 25 April 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Council of Ministers has tasked the Council of Economic and Development Affairs with identifying and monitoring the mechanisms and measures crucial for the implementation of “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030”.
Oil comprises 30-40 percent of the real GDP of Saudi Arabia, not including the proportion of the economy that is also dependent on the oil distribution. Decreasing this dependence on oil resources has been one of the goals of the government since the 1970s, however, the implementation of this goal has been rather unstable and largely dependent on the prices of oil. The core priority is to be able to develop more alternative sources of revenue for the government such as taxes, fees and income from the sovereign wealth fund. Another major aspect is to lower the dependency of the citizens of the country on public spending such as spending on subsidies and higher salaries and to increase the portion of the economy contributed by the private sector to provide more employment opportunities and to provide growth in the GDP.
The vision has 3 main pillars: the status of the country as the “heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds”; the determination to become a global investment powerhouse; and finally to transform the country’s location into a hub connecting the 3 continents (Asia, Europe, Africa).
The plan is supervised by a group of people employed under the National Center for Performance Measurement, the Delivery Unit, and the Project Management Office of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs. The National Transformation Program was designed and launched in 2016 across 24 government bodies to enhance the economic and development center.
Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 lays out targets for diversification and improving competitiveness. It is built around three main themes which set out specific objectives that are to be achieved by the year of 2030.
On the 7th of June 2016, the Saudi Council of Ministers approved the National Transformation Program which sets out the goals and targets to be achieved by the Kingdom by 2020. It is the first out of three phases each lasting for five years. Each phase will towards achieving a certain number of goals and targets that will eventually help the Kingdom in reaching the ultimate goals of Vision 2030. Also, to assist the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to finance all the projects to be developed and facilitate the process of achieving the goals and targets of Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman announced, in January 2016, that an IPO of Saudi ARAMCO is going to take place. However, only 5% of the company will be offered in the stock market.
A beach resort is proposed to be built on the Red Sea between the towns of Umluj and Al-Wajh in the northern section of the Hejazi coast. The resort project will involve, "50 islands and 34,000 square kilometers in a global upmarket tourism and leisure mega-development" and will be, "governed by laws on par with international standards." This will allow women to wear bikinis in the pool and beach areas.
In May 2016, a General Authority for Entertainment was announced by royal decree, into which over $2 billion have been invested. In Riyadh, the first public live music concert in over 25 years was held in May 2017, which featured American country star Toby Keith and Saudi singer Rabeh Sager. In April 2017, the government announced a large sports, culture and entertainment complex, of 334 square kilometres (33,400 ha) at Al-Qidiya, south-west of Riyadh. The project will include a Six Flags theme park, due to open in 2022. As a component of Vision 2030 there was a celebration of the 87th anniversary of the Saudi founding with concerts and performances, with women for the first time being allowed into the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. On March 5, 2018, a 10-year strategic multiplatform partnership between American sports entertainment company WWE and the General Sports Authority in support of Saudi Vision 2030 was annouced. The partnership is expected to start on April 27, 2018 with Greatest Royal Rumble at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
In early 2017, Saudi state schools announced offering physical education classes to both boys and girls starting in the fall of 2017. Later that same year, the state announced allowing men and women to attend sporting events, including inside sports stadiums. On September 26, 2017, a royal decree granted women the right to drive vehicles, a move which would take effect in June 2018.
Some of the other major projects to be developed are listed in the table below:
|Project Name||Location||Total Area (km²)||Date of Announcement||Expected Finish Date||Cost|
|New Taif Project||Taif||1250||1 March 2017||2020||3 Billion Dollars|
|Al-Qidiya Project||Al-Qidiya, south-west of Riyadh||334||8 April 2017||2022||2.7 Billion Dollars|
|Downtown Jeddah||Jeddah||5.2||27 September 2017||First phase will be completed by the end of 2022||4.8 Billion Dollars|
|NEOM||Northwest of Saudi Arabia includes land within Egypt and Jordan||26,500||24 October 2017||First Phase will be completed by the end of 2025||500 Billion Dollars|
To achieve the strategic objectives of Vision 2030, new government entities were created and existing entities were reconstructed and/or merged together.
|New entity||Reconstructed and/or merged from previous entity||Previous entity|
|Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) PMO||No|
|Delivery Unit (DU)||No|
|National Center for Performance Management (Adaa)||No|
|Corporate Communication Unit at CEDA (CCU)||No|
|General Authority for Culture (GAC)||No|
|General Authority for Entertainment of (GEA)||No|
|Strategic Management Committee and Strategic Management Office (SMO)||No|
|Ministry of Commerce and Industry||Yes||Ministry of Commerce and Investment|
|Ministry of Labor Ministry of Labor and Social Development||Yes||Ministry of Social Affairs|
|(Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Ministry of Water and Electricity and Ministry of Agriculture)||Yes||Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture|
|Ministry of Hajj||Yes||Ministry of Hajj and Umrah|
|Public Education Evaluation Commission||Yes||Education Evaluation Commission|
To achieve the strategic goals and targets of vision 2030, 12 programs called Visual Realization Programs (VRPS) were established. The VRPs were presented by CEDA on Monday the 24th of April 2017. The VRPs presented are: Enriching the Hajj and Umrah Experience Program, National Transformation Program, Public Investment Fund Program, National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, Financial Sector Development Program, Lifestyle Improvement Program, National Companies Promotion Program, Strategic Partnerships Program, The Housing Program, Privatization Program, Saudi Character Enrichment Program, Fiscal Balance Program.
The plan is supervised by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Three levels ensure the application of the plan:
The IMF's country report on Saudi Arabia, launched a few months following the announcement of Vision 2030, explained that the fiscal deficit in the Saudi economy would indeed continue to narrow in 2016. It also claimed that recent, major government deposits at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) acted as policy buffers to smooth the transition that the plan is leading. In 2016 the IMF publicly warned that Saudi Arabia risks having no more foreign reserve currency within a 5-year period. In 2017, it projected that SAMA’s net foreign assets would continue to decline, though remaining at a “comfortable level”. It expects that the fiscal deficit will continue to improve over the coming years, also noting that non-performing loans remained low, despite a slight increase to 1.4 percent in 2017.
Over 300 specific targets have been announced across 24 government entities via the National Transformation Plan document to reach these objectives by 2020. The National Transformation Plan brings over 150 expected initial public offerings. However, reports noted the "key person dependency" of the Vision and the NTP, with regards to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Other criticisms have been regarding the lack of information about the detailed plans to accompany the intended transformation.
Certain journalists speculated that the plan’s goals were overly ambitious, and noted that non-oil growth so far was insufficient and would threaten the plan’s successful implementation. One report felt that despite the national plan’s overall forward-thinking direction, «political reform appears to be absent from the policy agenda».
Reactions were mixed following the announcement that Saudi Arabia would lift the driving ban on women. Similarly to the overarching Vision 2030, some understood the announcement via royal decree as a reaction to outside pressure, while others applauded the move.
According to a research paper written by Jane Kinninmont for the Middle East and North Africa Programme, from the structural disadvantages of the country such as weak institutions, inefficient bureaucracy and significant gaps between the labor force required by the labor market and the current educational system hinder some of the growth prospects of the country. Rebalancing the job market in the private sector will also prove to be a challenge since it is currently majority staffed by expatriates. One of the difficulties is that the private sector has lower paying salaries and expats are easier to hire and fire. Currently twice as many Saudi nationals work in the public sector than in the private sector.The challenge lies in getting a larger portion of the nationals to accept lower paying jobs that could require higher working hours than that of the public sector. Another aspect to be considered is moving the private sector away from the business activities that require very low-cost labor.
According to Hilal Khashan from the American conservative think tank Middle East Forum, to have the 2030 plan succeed ignoring the relationship between economic and political development is no longer a viable option, the developments required to increase the GDP as planned will encourage the breakage of the tribal system taking place. Another aspect is the “zero tolerance to corruption” that may be very difficult to achieve with a “society where family, tribal, and regional ties are stronger than the nebulous conception of state identity”.